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OXFORD GEOGRAPHICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

Editors: Gordon Clark, Andrew Goudie, and Ceri Peach

SOCIAL POWER AND THE URBANIZATION OF WATER

Editorial Advisory Board

Professor Kay Anderson (United Kingdom) Professor Felix Driver (United Kingdom) Professor Rita Gardner (United Kingdom) Professor Avijit Gupta (United Kingdom) Professor Christian Kesteloot (Belgium) Professor David Thomas (United Kingdom) Professor B. L. Turner II (USA) Professor Michael Watts (USA) Professor James Wescoat (USA)

ALSO PUBLISHED BY OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS IN THE OXFORD GEOGRAPHICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES SERIES

The Globalized City Economic Restructuring and Social Polarization in European Cities Edited by Frank Moulaert, Arantxa Rodriguez, and Erik Swyngedouw

Of States and Cities The Partitioning of Urban Space Edited by Peter Marcuse and Ronald van Kempen

Globalization and Integrated Area Development in European Cities Frank Moulaert

Globalization and Urban Change Capital, Culture, and Pacific Rim Mega-Projects Kris Olds

Sustainable Livelihoods in Kalahari Environments Edited by Deborah Sporton and David S. G. Thomas

Confict, Consensus, and rationality in Environmental Planning An Institutional Discourse Approach Yvonne Rydin

An Uncooperative Commodity Privatizing Water in England and Wales Karen J. Bakker

Manufacturing Culture The Institutional Geography of Industrial Practice Meric S. Gertler

Thailand at the Margins Internationalization of the State and the Transformation of Labour Jim Glassman

Social Power and the Urbanization of Water

Flows of Power

Erik Swyngedouw

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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford   Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford New York Auckland Bangkok Buenos Aires Cape Town Chennai Dar es Salaam Delhi Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi Kolkata Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumbai Nairobi São Paulo Shanghai Taipei Tokyo Toronto

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Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York

© Erik Swyngedouw 2004

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First published 2004

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Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Data available ISBN 0-19-823391-4

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Typeset by SNP Best-set Typesetter Ltd., Hong Kong Printed in Great Britain on acid-free paper by Biddles Ltd, King’s Lynn

For Eva, Nikolaas, and Arno

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EDITORS’ PREFACE

Geography and environmental studies are two closely related and burgeoning fields of academic enquiry. Both have grown rapidly over the past few decades. At once catholic in its approach and yet strongly committed to a comprehen- sive understanding of the world, geography has focused upon the interaction between global and local phenomena. Environmental studies, on the other hand, have shared with the discipline of geography an engagement with differ- ent disciplines, addressing wide-ranging and significant environmental issues in the scientific community and the policy community. From the analysis of cli- mate change and physical environmental processes to the cultural dislocations of post-modernism across the landscape, these two fields of enquiry have been at the forefront of attempts to comprehend transformations taking place in the world, manifesting themselves at a variety of interrelated spatial scales. The ‘Oxford Geographical and Environmental Studies’ series aims to reflect this diversity and engagement. Our goal is to publish the best and original research in the two related fields and, in doing so, demonstrate the significance of geographical and environmental perspectives for understanding the con- temporary world. As a consequence, our scope is deliberately international and ranges widely in terms of topics, approaches, and methodologies. Authors are welcome from all corners of the globe. We hope the series will assist in redefin- ing the frontiers of knowledge and build bridges within the fields of geography and environmental studies. We hope also that it will cement links with issues and approaches that have originated outside the strict confines of these disci- plines. In doing so, our publications contribute to the frontiers of research and knowledge while representing the fruits of particular and diverse scholarly traditions.

Gordon L. Clark Andrew Goudie Ceri Peach

Here is no water but only rock Rock and no water and the sandy road The road winding above among the mountains Which are mountains of rock without water If there were water we should stop and drink Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand If there were only water amongst the rock Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit There is not even silence in the mountains But dry sterile thunder without rain There is not even solitude in the mountains But red sullen faces sneer and snarl From doors of mudcracked houses If there were water

From: T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

are not two places but one. They created

each other, they transformed each other’s environments and economies,

We all live in the city.

We all live in the country. Both are second nature to us.

and they now depend on each other for survival

Urban and rural landscapes

Cronon 1991: 384–5

PREFACE

The day after I first arrived in Guayaquil in mid-1992, a friend showed me around town. I was given the classic geographer’s tour of the city, Ecuador’s largest, located on the Pacific coast of this Andean country. The tour ended in the late afternoon on a hill on the outskirts of the central part of town. It is the kind of hill often favoured by geographers and planners to take visitors for a bird’s-eye view of a city. Such a perspective helps to chart a panoramic view and ‘explain’ the city. This male gaze par excellence provides the illusion that it is possible to ‘put the city in your pocket’ as a woman friend once put it. I was tired and thirsty after a long day filled with stories and visits, and saturated with new smells, sights, and impressions. While my friend kept pointing out the landmarks that dotted the urban land- scape and invited attention, my mind and eyes wandered off to observe the intense movements of people and trucks at the foot of the hill. Large blue trucks drove on and off, while dozens of apparently similar vehicles flowed back and forth over the dusty road. This hustle and bustle suggested busy eco- nomic activity, more so than anywhere else in the city that I had just visited. I interrupted my friend’s story and asked him about this strange traffic. He glanced down, commented ‘Oh, they are selling water’, and continued with the story that I had impolitely interrupted. I pondered the idea for a moment: ‘sell- ing water’. I also pondered the tone of self-evidence with which my friend had uttered these words. It appeared to suggest that my question was rather naïve, implying a blissful ignorance of the realities of urban life in Guayaquil. Of course they were selling water. What else would a bunch of blue trucks at the foot of a hill on the outskirts of Guayaquil do? I sat down and waited until my friend had finished his story, while watching the movement of the trucks with growing interest. Who were they selling to? Where did the water come from? What kind of water? For whose city? I finally managed to catch my friend’s attention again, and he explained. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘you remember this afternoon we visited the informal settle- ments in Guasmo and Suburbio, and in Mapasingue and Barrio Popular. The people living there—over 600,000 of them in a city of roughly two million— have no piped potable water, not even standpipes. The trucks you see down there drive to these settlements and sell water door-to-door, like ice-cream. The water is actually very expensive. They pay about 450 sucre (US$0.30) to fill up a 55-gallon tank. In fact, water is one of the most serious problems in this city, together with housing, transport, and crime. These trucks are privately owned, and operate in a semi-legal framework. They buy water from the publicly owned municipal water company at a highly subsidized rate (70 sucre/1,000 litres) and sell it on. I don’t have to tell you that this quasi-informal economy is very lucrative. Of course, for the people starving of thirst in the informal

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Preface

settlements the water vendors are both essential for their survival and consid- ered to be thieves and crooks. There are continual tensions and little skirmishes between residents and water vendors. The relationship is rather tense. More- over, the water system in Guayaquil is notoriously unreliable. Where you and I live (in the centre), we often don’t have water either. It is all quite a mess.’ I listened to the story with growing amazement. It was hot. I was sweating all over. The smell I gave off must have been rather unpleasant. I longed for a shower and a cold drink. My gaze moved back to the panorama of the city as I tried to imagine it without water. The city began to disappear and the image of a desert, of a dry and hot wasteland began to creep into my imagination. A place without people, without water, without life. In the far distance, the mighty Guayas River flowed by. Strange. Millions of gallons of water flow through the city, yet thousands of little struggles are waged daily, by tens of thousands of people, for a bit of expensive, more or less potable, water. Of course, earlier that day I had also seen the gated communities of the upper classes, with their swimming pools, irrigated gardens, and lavish fountains decorating the entry squares of the highly protected and privately policed enclaves. For a few years, I had been reading and thinking about politics, economics, the city; and about social power, exclusion, and revolt. My ‘green’ friends kept insisting that nature and the environment needed to be taken seriously as well. Perhaps they were right. What if we started thinking about the city, nature, and social power? What, if any, was the relationship between urban ecology and politics, between empowerment and disempowerment and the flow of water? What was hidden behind the H 2 O that was trucked around this city? What would such an excavation of the flow of urban water tell me about the city, its people and the mechanisms of political, economic, and cultural domination? I wondered, but I also knew then that a practice and a story was hidden some- where in that flow of water; a practice and a story of flows of liquid power. This book is the result of the search for this story.

Oxford 1 July 2003

Erik Swyngedouw

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The origins of this book date back to some time in 1986, when the Catholic University of Guayaquil in Ecuador approached the Institute for Urban and Regional Planning of the University of Leuven, Belgium, where I was a researcher at the time, to seek help for establishing an institute for urban and regional planning at their university. Within a few years, a major research and institution building exercise was launched, financially supported by the Belgian Ministry of Development (ABOS) and the Flemish Interuniversity Research Council (VLIR). Although I had moved to Oxford in 1988, the pro- ject’s director, Professor Louis Albrechts of the University of Leuven, invited me to continue to be involved in this Ecuadorian venture. Between 1988 and 1994, I spent more than a year in Ecuador at the newly established Instituto de Planificación Urbano y Regional (IPUR), undertaking the field research that would eventually lead to this book. I am grateful to St Peter’s College and the School of Geography for granting me the sabbatical leave to undertake this research. I continued my work with further shorter visits, mainly funded by Oxford University’s Hayter Fund. In Guayaquil, I had the good fortune to work with a great team of Ecuadorean and Belgian academics. All of them have been instrumental in shaping the analysis presented in the next pages. In addition to Louis Albrechts, who has been an inspiring mentor over the years, Andrew Bovarnick, Galo Chiriboga, José Delgado, Piet Deseure, Luis Gomez, Carlos Leon, Jef Marien, Joris and Hilde Scheers, Gaetan Villavicencio and a sup- porting network of local friends have been instrumental in making this book come to fruition. Greet Remans was a loving companion and comrade during many of these wonderful years. Annie Collaer kept us all informed and orga- nized with her great organizational talents. With the support of the Flemish International Centre (VIC) and with the friends from the Federación de Barrios Suburbanos (FEDEBAS) in Guayaquil, an alternative water supply and distribution system was set up in some of the informal settlements of Guayaquil. Making this project possible was for me a small, but significant, way of trying to make our research socially meaningful and politically relevant. Of course, the theoretical framework that laid the foundations for the analy- sis presented in this book was developed over the years in the context of the stimulating and exciting debates, arguments, and collaborative work I enjoyed in Oxford and which have helped to shape and sharpen the arguments pre- sented here. I owe a considerable debt to my friends, colleagues, and students in the School of Geography and the Environment and in St Peter’s College. In particular, Simon Addison, Guy Baeten, Karen Bakker, Jessica Budd, Esteban Castro, Kim Hammond, David Harvey, Maria Kaïka, Alex Loftus, Ben Page, and Judith Tsouvalis not only provided an intellectually stimulating

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Acknowledgements

environment, but also brought the fun, love, pleasure, and enjoyment that is so often absent from the dim corridors of academic institutions. David Dodman’s editorial work was meticulous and detailed. Ailsa Allen has been great as usual producing all the graphs and cartographic work. This book is dedicated to my children Eva, Nikolaas, and Arno. Eva and Nikolaas remember their stay in Guayaquil with great fondness. I am sure Arno will one day also visit this beautiful country, Ecuador on which he has just completed his school project. My work has cost them dearly in terms of time I did not spend with them, but rather with the people of Guayaquil or sit- ting behind my computer. I can only hope that one day they will understand and forgive me for the time stolen from them.

CONTENTS

List of Plates

xiv

List of Figures

xv

List of Tables

xvi

Introduction: The Power of Water

1

PART I Flows of Power: Nature, Power, and the City

1. Hybrid Waters: On Water, Nature, and Society

7

2. The City in a Glass of Water: Circulating Water, Circulating Power

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3. Water, Power, and the Andean City: Situating Guayaquil

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PART II Social Power and the Urbanization of Water in Guayaquil, Ecuador

4. The Urban Conquest of Water in Guayaquil, 1880–1945:

Cocoa and the Urban Water Dream

79

5. The Urban Conquest of Water in Guayaquil, 1945–2000:

Bananas, Oil, and the Production of Water Scarcity

102

6. The Water Mandarins: The Contradictions of Urban Water Provision

116

7. The Water Lords: Speculators in Water

135

8. Contested Waters: Rituals of Resistance and Water Activism

150

PART III Conclusion

9. Whose Water and Whose City? Towards an Emancipatory Water Politics

175

Bibliography

185

LIST OF PLATES

3.1

Drowning in water and starving from thirst: Isla Trinitaria, Guayaquil

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3.2

High and dry: Bastion Popular, Guayaquil

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7.1

‘Tanqueros’ filling their water lorries at the filling station

137

7.2

Selling water by the barrel

140

8.1

Collective social actions around water

157

8.2

Guayaquil’s enduring water shortages and problems: media representations

164

8.3

Speculating with water

165

8.4

Going on water strike/sabotaging the water system

170

LIST OF FIGURES

1.1

The dialectics of

the material production of socio-nature

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1.2

The dialectics of the representational production of socio-nature

19

1.3

The production of socio-nature

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3.1

The location of Guayaquil in Ecuador

63

3.2

The city of

Guayaquil and its main urban divisions

65

3.3

Percentage of dwellings served by water lorries in Guayaquil, 1990

66

3.4

The water supply system in Guayaquil

68

7.1

Turning H 2 O into money

136

LIST OF TABLES

3.1

Average municipal water consumption in Latin American cities

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3.2

Urban populations with access to water supply and sewerage in Andean and selected Latin American countries

54

3.3

Percentage of houses with indoor piped water and sewerage connections, selected Latin American cities

54

3.4

Relationships between proportion of water consumed and percentage of households, and total water production per capita in selected Latin American cities

55

3.5

Potable water and sewerage services in Quito, Guayaquil, and Ecuador,

1974–1990

64

3.6

Water accessibility and water provision in the metropolitan area of Guayaquil (City of Guayaquil plus Duran), 1990

64

3.7

Geographical distribution of water supply and consumption through the official network, 1990

69

3.8

Bacteriological analysis of drinking water in selected parts of the city

74

4.1

Population change in Guayaquil, 1500–1990

84

4.2

Number of businesses and their net worth, Guayaquil, 1901

86

6.1

Water consumption, distribution, losses, and accounted-for water in Guayaquil, 1990

121

6.2

Evolution of the debt position of the Empresa Provincial de Agua Potable, Guayaquil, 1980–1992

123

6.3

Proportion of water and sanitation services privatized, 1997 and 2010 projected

127

6.4

International corporate private investment for water and sanitation in developing and transition countries, 1984–1997

128

6.5

Factors of public sector inefficiency

129

6.6

Factors promoting privatization

130

6.7

Factors discouraging privatization

131

7.1

Number of ‘tanqueros’ active in the city of Guayaquil, 1992

137

7.2

Distribution of water by tankers in January and July 1992

138

7.3

Price multiples and water prices charged by water vendors, mid-1970s to 1980s and 2001

139

7.4

EPAP-G tariff structure for residential water use, October 1988, December 1992, September 1993

141

7.5

Evolution of official and real water prices

142

7.6

Ownership structure of water-vending trucks in 1992

143

7.7

Comparison of average cost per tank of 200 litres of water in current sucres and US$

144

7.8

The average income and expenditure structure of EPAP-G’s water production

146

8.1

Reported moments of acute water shortages in Guayaquil, January 1988–August 1993, May–August 1996, and January 1998–July 1998

162

8.2

Examples of reported water strikes by the ‘tanqueros’, 1991–1993

166

8.3

Examples of reported attacks and sabotages of the water system, 1988–1992, February–June 1998

169

Introduction: The Power of Water

Water is indispensable ‘stuff’ for maintaining the metabolism, not only of our human bodies, but also of the wider social fabric. The very sustainability of cities and the practices of everyday life that constitute ‘the urban’ are predi- cated upon and conditioned by the supply, circulation, and elimination of water. The complex web of the ‘Metabolisms of Cities’ (Wolman 1965: 179) relies on the perpetual circulation of water into, through, and out of the city. Without an uninterrupted flow of water, the maelstrom of city life and the mesmerizing collage of interwoven practices that constitute the very essence of urbanity are hard to imagine. It is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to even think about living without water for drinking, washing, bathing, cooking, or cleaning for more than a few hours. Indeed, like food, water is both a bio- logical necessity and a key economic commodity, as well as being the source of an intricate and rich cultural and symbolic power (see Bachelard 1942). But while the supply of food, clothing, and durable goods can be handled through local, decentralized, individual initiative, the supply of water is routinely— although by no means necessarily or exclusively—organized by means of large bureaucratic and engineering control systems, collective intervention and action, and centralized decision-making systems (see Wittfogel 1957; Worster 1985; Lorrain 1997; Donahue and Johnston 1998). Such centralized and hierarchical systems, whether privately or publicly owned, enable monopoly control and, given the commodity character of water, permit the extraction of monopoly profits in addition to the powerful social and political control that goes with monopolistic control over vital goods. Contrary to the rural realm where—at least under non-arid conditions—water of a reasonable quality is easily and often readily available, urban water supply and access relies on the perpetual transformation, mastering, and harnessing of ‘natural’water. Urban water is necessarily transformed, ‘metabolized’ water, not only in terms of its physico-chemical characteristics, but also in terms of its social characteristics and its symbolic and cultural meanings. In capitalist cities, or at least in cities where market relations are the dominant form of exchange, this circulation of water is also an integral part of the circulation of money and capital. Nature’s water is captured, pumped, purified, chemically adjusted, piped, bought and sold, regulated, used by households, agriculture and industry, transformed into electricity, biochemically metabolized by plants, animals and humans, inte- grated in public displays like fountains, often turned into sewage, eventually

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Introduction: The Power of Water

returned to ‘nature’. As with other urban goods and services, water circulation is part and parcel of the political economy of power that gives structure and coherence to the urban fabric. Indeed, the water/money nexus combined with H 2 O’s essential life-giving and life-sustaining use-value inserts water and the hydrosocial cycle into the power relationships of everyday life and makes it subject to intense social struggle along class, gender, and ethnic cleavages for access and/or control. Mechanisms of access to and exclusion from water lay bare political economic power relationships and positions of social and cul- tural power, particularly in cities that lack adequate water supply systems or in environments characterized by heavily contested water usage. The circulation of water combines political and economic power at the international, national, regional, and local levels with a social and economic struggle for the control over and appropriation of water. Both public and private agents are deeply implicated in this struggle for the command over water and for power. The flow of water and the flow of money and power are, consequently, ma- terially linked. In a variety of ways, Worster (1985), Reisner (1986), Davis (1990), and Hundley (1992) have shown how watering California in general, and Los Angeles in particular, has been a tumultuous and conflict-ridden process driven by relations of political power, economic control, and territor- ial conflict. In the same way, I suggest that the power/money/water nexus can be introduced as a conceptual triad, which lays bare the political economy of the urban fabric and the functioning of mechanisms of domination and sub- ordination within the urban arena. Just as the investigation of the circulation of money and capital illustrates the functioning of capitalism as an economic system (see Harvey 1981; 1982), I aim to demonstrate that the circulation of water—as a physical and social process—brings to light wider political eco- nomic, social, and ecological processes. In turn, this will permit a better under- standing of the political ecological processes that shape urbanization. Indeed, controlling the flow of water implies controlling the city, as without the unin- terrupted flowing of water, the city’s metabolism would come to a halt. The metaphorical and material streams of power that give Guayaquil, or any other city, its city structure can be unravelled and reconstructed, I hold, through excavating the political economic relations through which water is brought into, circulated through, and taken out of the city. And this is exactly the task set out for this book. The particular irony evident in Guayaquil, is that billions of litres of water flow through the city centre as the Rivers Daule and Babahoyo come together to form the mighty Guayas stream, while almost half the city dwellers do not have access to adequate and reliable potable water supplies and the entire city suffers from chronic water shortages. The sewage system, the other half of the circulatory water system, is on the verge of total collapse. For the ‘invasiones’, land invaded and occupied by rural migrants and the rapidly expanding urban underclass, the irony takes even more grotesque forms. The further consolida- tion and expansion of invasion settlements in the Guayas river estuary is or-

Introduction: The Power of Water 3

ganized through a detailed division of labour, often concerned with controlling and ‘engineering’ estuary water (landfill, elevated housing and pathway con- struction, simple dams, etc.) while, once new sites are occupied, the new city dwellers suffer from chronic potable water supply problems and lack of sani- tary services. Despite being surrounded by saline and polluted estuary water, and being inundated during the rainy season, they never have access to ade- quate drinking water. The absence of water and the exclusionary practices through which the urban water supply system is organized tell a story of urban deprivation, disempowerment, and repressive social mechanisms that turn slum life into the antithesis of modern urban life. This book seeks to document and analyse the power of water in the context of Guayaquil’s urbanization process and to suggest strategies for an emanci- patory and non-exclusive production, conduction, and distribution of urban water. In the first three chapters of the book, I attempt to chart the political ecological perspectives that have inspired the research on Guayaquil’s urban- ization process. I shall start with outlining how water captures and fuses together physical and social processes. This will set the scene for Chapter 2, where I explore the thorny relationship between nature, society, and water as they become welded together in the city through the urbanization process. The historical geography of urban water control will be briefly recapitulated to highlight the social constructedness of water use and mastering, and the ma- terial and symbolic power mechanisms that are inscribed in the way the urban- ization of water has unfolded. The third chapter, then, switches the vantage point to the Latin American city and to Guayaquil, in particular, and charts the oppressive and exclusive processes that produce highly uneven and deeply problematic access to water, and in particular potable water, to many urban residents. I shall explore the flows of power and the mechanisms of participa- tion and exclusion that describe the rituals of everyday urban life as they are inscribed in the metabolic circulation of urban water. The second part of the book will delve into the political-ecological dynam- ics through which the contemporary urban waterscape and hydrosocial cycle in Guayaquil became constituted. The city’s waterscape is indeed a manufactured landscape, one that is wrought, historically and geographically, from a mes- merizing mixture of local, regional, national, and international socio- economic and political-ecological processes and struggles. Chapters 4 and 5 undertake this history of the urban water networks, and reconstruct how Guayaquil’s twentieth-century history became etched into the technical, social, and ecological structures of the water system. This history and current geography of the city will be written from the perspective of the necessity to control and harness water flow into and around the city. The socio-economic and political-geographic power relationships determining access to or exclu- sion from water will be analysed in the context of Guayaquil’s urbanization process. In addition, I shall explore how these practices vindicate social and economic power relationships at the local, national, and international level.

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Introduction: The Power of Water

In the subsequent part the ‘Water Mandarins’, which organize and control the production, conduction, and distribution of urban water in Guayaquil, will be charted with a focus on their internal and external relations. This will include an analysis of the relationship between external funding agencies (the World Bank and others), national government, and the local and recently privatized water company (Chapter 6). In addition, infrastructure and invest- ment planning, price mechanisms, and control structures will be explored in the light of the disempowering mechanisms of the existing water system. In Chapter 7, I shall explore the relations between the water company and the ‘water speculators’, the ‘informal’ system of water distribution by a series of private water vendors (‘tanqueros’) that serve the suburban areas by means of tankers. In the final section of the book, the struggles for water power will be docu- mented. In Chapter 8, the strategies of the water company, the ‘tanqueros’, and the local communities will demonstrate how control over and access to water is highly contested terrain. The flow of money from the community to the state, the private sector, and the ‘water speculators’, and the consequent draining of resources will be detailed. Attention will be paid to both informal struggles, political clientelist strategies and to ‘water violence’ in the quest for control over water. These struggles exemplify the dynamics of the Guayaquileño urban political economy and highlight the mechanisms of domination/subordina- tion and participation/exclusion in the context of peripheral urbanization processes. Attention will also be paid to ‘people power’, to the weapons deployed by the weak, and the ingenious mechanisms mobilized by individuals and social groups alike to secure access to at least some of the available water. The section will conclude with a discussion of the struggles over access to water in the practices of everyday urban life. In the concluding chapter, strategic issues related to the possibilities for an emancipatory and empowering devel- opment will be explored. Political, institutional, and technological alternatives enabling a more equitable water supply and distribution system and permitting local residents to exercise ‘the right to the city’ (and its water) will be outlined. In short, in what follows, I aim to reconstruct the political, social, and eco- nomic conduits through which water flows and to identify how power relations infuse the metabolic transformation of water as it becomes urban. These flows of water that are simultaneously physical and social carry in their currents the embodiment of myriad social struggles and conflicts. The exploration of these flows narrates stories about the city’s structure and development. Yet these flows also carry the potential for an improved, more just, and more equitable right to the city and its water. The flows of power that are captured by urban water circulation also suggest how the question of urban sustainability is not just about achieving sound ecological and environmental conditions, but first and foremost about a social struggle for access and control; a struggle not just for the right to water, but for the right to the city itself.

PART I

Flows of Power: Nature, Power, and the City

PART I Flows of Power: Nature, Power, and the City

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1

Hybrid Waters: On Water, Nature, and Society

We have before us, here and now, a whole. It is both the condition for pro- duction and the product of action itself, the place for mankind and the object of its pleasure: the earth.

Lefebvre 1995: 133

a thing cannot be understood or even talked about independently of the relations it has with other things. For example, resources can be defined only in relationship to the mode of production which seeks to make use of them and which simultaneously ‘produces’them through both the physical and mental activity of the users. There is, therefore, no such thing as a resource in abstract or a resource which exist as a ‘thing in itself’.

Harvey 1980: 212

A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.

Haraway 1991: 149

The two extremes, local and global, are much less interesting than the inter-

Is it our fault if the

networks are simultaneously real, like nature, narrated, like discourse, and

mediary arrangements that we are calling networks

collective, like society?

Latour 1993: 122, 126

1.1 Water and the urbanization of nature

1.1.1 Critical waters

In recent years, we have become increasingly aware of the importance of water as a critical good, and questions of water supply, access, and management, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, have become key issues (Gleick 1993; Postel 1992; Stauffer 1998). The proliferating commodification and pri- vatization of water management systems; the combination of Global Environ- mental Change with increased demands from cities, agriculture, and industry

8

Water, Nature, and Society

for reasonably clean water; the inadequate access of almost a billion people on the planet to clean water (over half of whom live in large urban centres); the proliferating geopolitical struggle over the control of river basins; the popular resistance against the construction of new megadams; the political struggles around water privatization projects; and many other issues; have brought water politics to the foreground of national and international agendas (Shiklomanov 1990; 1997; Herrington 1996; Roy 2001). In the twentieth century, water scarcity was seen as a problem primarily affecting developing societies (Anton 1993). However, at the turn of the new century, water problems are becoming increasingly globalized. In Europe, the area bordering the Mediterranean, notably Spain, southern Italy, and Greece, is arguably the location in which the water crisis has become most acute, both in quantitative and qualitative terms (Batisse and Gernon 1989; Margat 1992; Swyngedouw 1996a). However, northern European countries, such as the UK, Belgium, and France, have also seen increasing problems with water supply, water management, and water control (Haughton 1996), while transitional societies in eastern Europe are faced with mounting water supply problems (Thomas and Howlett 1993). The Yorkshire drought in England, for example, or the Walloon/Flemish dispute over water rights are illuminating examples of the intensifying conflict that surrounds water issues (Bakker 1999). Cities in the global South and the global North alike are suffering from a deteri- oration in their water supply infrastructure and in their environmental and social conditions in general (Lorrain 1995; Brockerhoff and Brennan 1998). Up to 50% of urban residents in the developing world’s megacities have no easy access to reasonably clean and affordable water. The myriad socio- environmental problems associated with deficient water supply conditions threaten urban sustainability, social cohesion, and, most disturbingly, the livelihoods of millions of people (Niemczynowicz 1991). It is not surprising, then, to find that issues of water have become highly contested. Political conflict, ecological problems, and social tensions multiply as the competition for access to water intensifies (Worster 1985; Hundley 1992; Shiva 2002). Yet, cities are becoming increasingly thirsty (Cans 1994). This book will concentrate on the thorny relationship between the urbanization process and socio-ecological conditions. In the process, it will argue that urbanization is primarily a particular socio-spatial process of metabolizing nature, of urban- izing the environment. Urban water issues have traditionally been approached from a predomin- antly engineering, economic, or managerial approach, with precious little attention paid to the central role of social and political questions (Goubert 1989). The social risk associated with growing water problems as manifesta- tions of wider socio-ecological and political ecological changes have been even less scrutinized. The problematic water supply and access conditions in many of the cities in the Global South—cities as varied as Jakarta, Mexico City, Lagos, Cochabamba, or Guayaquil—testify to the growing risk and associated

Water, Nature, and Society

9

social and political tensions in this domain. In light of mounting environmen- tal concerns (global climate change, pollution, soil degradation, etc.), environ- mental risks are viewed as becoming increasingly central to political and social issues, debates, and approaches (see Beck 1992; 1995). In light of real or per- ceived risks of water crises, a review of the way in which the hydrological cycle, water management, water politics, and water economics are understood and theorized is long overdue. It is in many ways astonishing that in the ballooning literature on the envi- ronment and among the innumerable environmental social movements, the city often figures in a rather marginal or, worse, an antithetical manner. Even more surprising is the almost complete absence of a serious engagement with the environmental problematic in the prolific literature on the city.¹ At a time when the world is rapidly approaching a situation in which more than half of its population dwells in large cities, the environmental question is generally often circumscribed to either rural or threatened ‘natural’ environments or to ‘global’ problems. Yet, the urbanization process is central to the momentous environmental changes and alleged problems that have inspired the emergence of environmental issues on the political agenda.

1.1.2 The urbanization of nature

In Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference, David Harvey (1996) insists that there is nothing particularly ‘unnatural’about New York City or any other city. Cities are dense networks of interwoven socio-spatial processes that are simultaneously human, material, natural, discursive, cultural, and organic. The myriad transformations and metabolisms that support and maintain urban life, such as water, food, computers, and movies always involve infinitely interconnected environmental and social processes (Swyngedouw 1999). Imag- ine, for example, standing on a busy street corner of any city in the world and considering the socio-environmental metabolic relations that come together in this global/local place. Smells, tastes, and bodies from all nooks and crannies of the world are floating by, consumed, displayed, narrated, visualized, and trans- formed. Shops and restaurants play to the tune of eco-sensitive shopping and the multi-billion pound eco-industry while competing with McDonalds’ burg- ers and Dunkin’ Donuts. The sounds of world music vibrate from music shops while people, spices, clothes, foodstuffs, and materials from all over the planet whirl by. The neon lights are fed by the processes of nuclear fission, coal, or gas burning in far-off power plants, while the cars consume fuels from oil deposits and pump CO 2 into the air, affecting forests and climates around the globe. These disparate processes trace the global geographic mappings that flow

¹ With some exceptions, such as: Davis (1990; 1995; 1998), Cronon (1991), Keil (1994; 1995; 1998), Keil and Desfor (1996), Gandy, (1996; 1999; 2002), Harvey (1996), Swyngedouw (1996b; 1997), Swyngedouw and Kaïka (2000); Kaïka and Swyngedouw (2000).

10

Water, Nature, and Society

through the urban landscape and ‘produce’ cities as palimpsests of densely layered bodily, local, national, and global—but geographically depressingly uneven—socio-ecological processes. This intermingling of things material and things symbolic produces a particular socio-environmental milieu that welds nature, society, and the city together in a deeply heterogeneous, conflicting, and often disturbing whole (Swyngedouw 1996b). The socio-ecological footprint of the city has become global. There is no longer an outside or limit to the city, as the urban process harbours social and ecological processes that are embed- ded in dense and multilayered networks of local, regional, national, and global connections. In the emerging literature on ‘the sustainable city’, little attention has thus far been paid to the urban as a process of socio-ecological change,² while dis- cussions about global environmental problems and the possibilities for a ‘sus- tainable’ future customarily ignore the urban origin of many of the problems. Of course, ‘environmental’ issues have been central to urban change and urban politics for at least a century if not more. Visionaries of all sorts lamented the ‘unsustainable’ character of early modern cities and proposed solutions and plans that would remedy the antinomies of urban life and produce a healthy ‘wholesome’ urban living. As Raymond Williams pointed out in The Country and the City (1985 (1973) ), the transformation of nature and the social rela- tions inscribed therein are inextricably connected to the process of urbaniza- tion. The dialectic of the environment and urbanization consolidates a particular set of social relations through ‘an ecological transformation which requires the reproduction of those relations in order to sustain it’ (Harvey 1996: 94). These socio-environmental changes result in the continuous produc- tion of new ‘natures’, of new urban social and physical environmental condi- tions. All of these processes occur in the realms of power in which social actors strive to defend and create their own environments in a context of class, ethnic, racial and/or gender conflicts and power struggles. Of course, under capital- ism, the commodity relation veils and hides the multiple socio-ecological processes of domination/subordination and exploitation/repression that feed the capitalist urbanization process and turn the city into a metabolic socio- environmental process that stretches from the immediate environment to the remotest corners of the globe. Indeed, the apparently self-evident commodifi- cation of nature that fundamentally underpins a market-based society not only obscures the social relations of power inscribed therein, but also permits the disconnection of the perpetual flows of transformed and commodified nature from its inevitable foundation, i.e. the transformation of nature (Katz 1998). In sum, the environment of the city (both social and physical) is the result of a his- torical geographical process of the urbanization of nature (Swyngedouw and Kaïka 2000).

² Among those who address the issue are Blowers (1993) and Haughton and Hunter (1994), or, for a

more critical perspective, Burgess, Carmona, and Kolstee (1997), Baeten (2000) and Gandy (2002).

Water, Nature, and Society

11

Although Henri Lefebvre does not address the environment of the city directly, he does remind us of what the urban really is, i.e. something akin to a vast and variegated whirlpool replete with all the ambivalence of a space full of opportunity, playfulness, and liberating potential, while being entwined with spaces of oppression, exclusion, and marginalization (Lefebvre 1991 (1974) ). Cities seem to hold the promise of emancipation and freedom whilst skilfully mastering the whip of repression and domination (Merrifield and Swyngedouw 1996). Ironically, the relations of domination and power that infuse urban practices and which are contested in innumerable ways help to create the differentiated environments that give cities their sweeping vitality. At the same time, these forms of resistance and subversion of dom- inant values tend to perpetuate the conservative imagery of cities as places of chaos, social, and environmental disintegration, and moral decay. Perpetual change and an ever-shifting mosaic of environmentally and socio-culturally distinct urban ecologies—varying from the manufactured and manicured landscaped gardens of gated communities and high-technology campuses to the ecological war-zones of depressed neighbourhoods with lead-painted walls, asbestos-covered ceilings, waste dumps, and pollutant-infested areas— still shape the choreography of a capitalist urbanization process. Environ- mental ideologies, practices, and projects are part and parcel of this dialectical process of the urbanization of nature. Needless to say, the above construc- tionist perspective considers the process of urbanization to be an integral part of the production of new environments and new natures, which sees both nature and society as fundamentally combined historically geographical pro- duction processes (see, among others, Smith 1984; 1996; 1998; Castree 1995). This perspective has major consequences for political strategy. As Lewontin insists:

is of some consequence to human action. A rational

environmental movement cannot be built on the demand to save the environment,

the world is the universal property of

living organisms and is inextricably bound up with their nature. Rather, we must decide what kind of world we want to live in and then try to manage the process of change as best we can approximate it. (Lewontin 1997: 137–8)

which, in any case, does not exist

[T]he constructionist view

Remaking

In this sense, there is no such thing as an unsustainable city in general, but rather there are a series of urban and environmental processes that nega- tively affect some social groups while benefiting others. A just urban socio- environmental perspective, therefore, always needs to consider the question of who gains and who pays and to ask serious questions about the multiple power relations through which deeply unjust socio-environmental condi- tions are produced and maintained. This requires sensitivity to the political ecology of urbanization rather than invoking particular ideologies and views about the qualities that are assumed to be inherent in nature itself. Before we can embark on outlining the dimensions of an urban political ecological

12

Water, Nature, and Society

enquiry, we need to consider the matter of nature in greater detail, in particu- lar in light of the accelerating process by which nature become urbanized through the deepening metabolic interactions between social and ecological processes.

1.2 The question of nature: hybrid worlds

There remains nothing, in culture or nature, which has not been transformed, and pol- luted, according to the means and interests of modern industry. (Guy Debord 1990: 10)

In fact, ‘nature’ is merely the uncoded category that modernists oppose to ‘culture’, in the same way that, prior to feminism, ‘man’ was the uncoded category opposed to ‘woman’. By coding the category of ‘natural object’, anthropological science loses the former nature/culture dichotomy. Here, there is an obvious link with feminism. Noth- ing more can be done with nature than with the older notion of man. (Bruno Latour 1998: 238)

Early in 1998 (Le Monde, 17 January), controversy arose in the Paris region about IBM’s continued tapping of ancient underground aquifers. The com- pany’s manufacturing processes require large volumes of water of the highest purity to cleanse the micropores on chips. Environmentalists seeking to protect historical ‘natural waters’ were outraged; the water company, Lyonnaise des Eaux, was worried about the potential loss of water and, consequently, of future dividends; while the state at a variety of scales was caught up in the myriad tensions ensuing from this: protection of the natural environment ver- sus economic priorities, the competing claims of different companies, etc. The ancient underground waters fused with politics, economics, and culture in intricate ways. Later the same year, the Southeast Asian financial bubble imploded. Global capital moved spasmodically from place to place, leaving cities like Jakarta with social and physical wastelands in which dozens of unfinished skyscrapers are dotted over the landscape while thousands of unemployed children, women, and men roam the streets in search of survival. In the meantime, El Niño’s global dynamic was wreaking havoc in the region with its climatic dis- turbances. Concrete buildings that had once promised continued capital accu- mulation for Indonesia now held nothing more than puddles of stagnant water providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Malaria and dengue fever sud- denly joined with unemployment and social and political mayhem in shaping Jakarta’s cityscape. Global capital fused with global climate, with local power struggles, and with socio-ecological conditions to reshape Jakarta’s social ecol- ogy in profound, radical, and deeply troubling ways. In 1997, the scientific community was thrilled and the wider public shocked when Scottish researchers revealed that they had been able for the first

Water, Nature, and Society 13

time to clone a higher organism. The cloned sheep, appropriately called ‘Dolly’,³ outraged environmentalists, initiated a moral debate about the rights of humans to tamper with and reconstruct nature, excited the bio-technology venture capitalists who imagined a burgeoning multi-billion pound new indus- try, and incensed feminists who considered ‘Dolly’ to be a soulmate subjected to the whims and desires of a patriarchical, domineering, and manipulative male order. Meanwhile, the scientists congratulated themselves on their break- through in disentangling and commanding the web of life. These are just three examples from a proliferating number of cases in which the traditional distinction between environment and society, between nature and culture becomes blurred, ambiguous, and problematic. They also capture current arguments over the ‘nature of nature’. What I wish to undertake here is a more detailed exploration of the challenges and implications arising from the examples given above, and a tentative suggestion of avenues for exploring and transforming the world in an emancipatory fashion. The above stories exem- plify what is at the core of Bruno Latour’s critique of the purifying rituals that have plagued modern science ever since the Enlightenment. The desire of sci- entists to divide the world into two separate poles, nature on the one hand and culture on the other, seems to have lost much of its explanatory and political power in an era when it is becoming increasingly apparent that things ‘natural’ and things ‘cultural’ do not exist side by side as the two opposite poles of a dialectical unity. As Latour’s quote suggests, we have to abandon the categories of nature and culture altogether. In We Have Never been Modern, Latour (1993) argues how the Gordian knot that weaves together the ‘natural’ and ‘social’ has been cut through by the sword of the purifying rituals that became encoded in the scientific enterprise of the Enlightenment. It was precisely this unruly binarization that permitted scientists and engineers to decode some of the intricacies of parts of the world (while, of course, being totally unaware of the socially and culturally significant meanings that became scripted into their scientific explanations). More importantly, the particular knowledge of the ‘purified’natural world that was generated by the practices and gazes of the sci- entists permitted precisely the proliferation of the hybrid ‘things’ mentioned above. Scientific knowledge and practices fused with physical metabolic processes to produce socio-natural and socio-technical hybrid complexes. In many ways, the separation between nature and society accelerated the forma- tion of these socio-natural cyborgs and quasi-objects of which H 2 O, ‘Dolly’, or Oncomouse tm (see Haraway 1991; 1997; Lykke 1996) have become canonical examples. Similarly, urban and regional landscapes, climate change, ozone

³ It is, of course, not a coincidence that the cloned sheep was female and given a name usually associ-

ated with a female playmate, which combines male-oriented sexually explicit characteristics with a naivety that renders her easily subject to male fantasies and manipulations. ‘Dolly’ became an icon of a commodified, sexist, and manipulative academic industry.

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Water, Nature, and Society

depletion in the stratosphere and ozone overconcentration in the troposphere, El Niño and the forest fires in Indonesia, prions and BSE, the threat of peren- nially polluted drinking water, and risks of droughts and floods, the daily struggle many have to wage to obtain reasonably clean water all testify to the myriad ways in which the natural and the social have transgressed and continue to blur the boundaries that modern science, including geography, have tried to spin around the ‘natural’ and ‘social’ worlds. Indeed, on closer inspection, the city, water, ozone, BSE, ‘Dolly’, and human bodies are networks of interwoven processes that are simultaneously human and natural, real and fictional, mechanical and organic. There is nothing ‘purely’social or natural about them, even less asocial or a-natural: these ‘things’ are natural and social, real and fictional. Society and nature, representation and being, are inseparable, integral to each other, infinitely bound up. Simultaneously, these hybrid socio- natural ‘things’ are full of contradictions, tensions and conflicts (Castree and MacMillan 2001). Their very existence has a lot to say both about modernity’s project of pur- ification and about self-described ‘post-modern’ debates on the importance of the sign. To start with the latter, the existence of hybrids of the kind exemplified above is a constant reminder and proof of the impossibility of separating ‘representation’ from ‘being’, the sign from the signified, the discursive from the material. In terms of what this hybridization has to say about modernity’s purification project, I shall argue that the way in which these socio-natural ‘hybrids’ encompass contradictions, tensions, and conflicts shows that the scientific endeavour of slicing the ‘Gordian knot’ binding the ‘natural’ and the ‘social’ together has only been accomplished at a discur- sive/scientific level. The separation worked at the epistemological level, that is as a way of understanding the world, and as such has indeed managed to pro- duce knowledge. The problem with this epistemological perspective, once it became hegemonic, is that it eventually turned from a dominant epistemology to a dominant ontology, that is a strong belief that the world was actually onto- logically split into things natural and things social. This translocation of epis- temology into ontology was not of course without profound social, political, and cultural implications and was indeed highly relevant to the historical, social, cultural, and political background against which it happened. As Latour argues, the proliferation of ‘hybrids’ permits (and even necessitates) everyone (including scientists) to see the impossibility of an ontological basis for such a separation. Their very existence is proof of the flaw of such an argu- ment. The irony, of course, is that ‘hybridization’ emerged precisely from the very laboratories whose fundamental purpose had been to rule out (outlaw) hybridity. In the next section, I shall tentatively suggest a research programme to explore the proliferation of quasi-objects and cyborgs in the present world, and attempt to contribute to the formulation of an emancipatory political- ecological programme.

Water, Nature, and Society

15

1.3 On hybrids and socio-nature:

flow, process, and dialectics

1.3.1 The materialist legacy

Karl Marx’s historical materialism was arguably the first coherent attempt to theorize the internal metabolic relationships that shape the transformations of the earth’s surface. In Grundrisse, in Capital and, in particular, in The German Ideology, Marx insisted on the ‘natural’ foundations of social development:

The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these

The writing of

individuals and their consequent relationship to the rest of nature

history must always set out from these natural bases and their modification in the course

of history through the action of men

The first historical act is thus the production of the means

be able to ‘make history’

to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself. (Marx (1974 (1846): 42, 48)

[M]en must be in a position to live in order to

This ‘production’ process is basically a labour process (in the widest possible sense of the word). Labouring is therefore nothing other than engaging the ‘natural’ physical and mental forces and capabilities of humans in a metabolic physical/material process with other human and non-human natural condi- tions and actors. ‘Metabolism’ is the central metaphor for Marx’s definition of labour and for analysing the relationship between human and nature:

Labour is, first of all, a process between man and nature, a process by which man, through his own actions, mediates, regulates, and controls the metabolism between him-

self and nature. He confronts the materials of nature as a force of nature. He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his own body, his arms, legs, head, and hands, in order to appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own needs. Through this movement he acts upon external nature and changes it, and in this way he

simultaneously changes his own

at the production of use-values. It is an appropriation of what exists in nature for the requirements of man. It is the universal condition for the metabolic interaction between man and nature, the everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence, and it is therefore independent of every form of that existence, or rather it is common to all forms of society in which human beings live. (Marx 1971 (1867): 283, 290)

[labouring] is the purposeful activity aimed

For Marx, this socio-natural metabolism is the foundation of and possibil- ity for history, a socio-environmental history through which the nature of humans and non-humans alike is transformed. To the extent that labour con- stitutes the universal premise for metabolic interaction with nature, the particular social relations through whom this metabolism of nature is enacted shape its very form. Clearly, any materialist approach insists that ‘nature’ is an integral part of the ‘metabolism’ of social life. Social relations operate in and through metabolizing the ‘natural’ environment and transform both society and nature.

16

Water, Nature, and Society

Marx undoubtedly borrowed the notion of ‘metabolic interaction’ from von Liebig, the founding theoretician of modern agricultural chemistry. In fact, the original German word is ‘stoffwechsel’, which simultaneously means circula- tion, exchange AND transformation of material elements. As Foster (2000) argues, the notion of ‘metabolism’is central to Marx’s political economy and is directly implicated in the circulation of commodities and, consequently, of money:

The economic circular flow then was closely bound up, in Marx’s analysis, with the material exchange (ecological circular flow) associated with the metabolic interaction between human beings and nature. (Foster 2000: 157–8)

Under capitalist social relations, then, the metabolic production of use- values operates in and through specific control and ownership relations and in the context of the mobilization of both nature and labour to produce com- modities (as forms of metabolized socio-natures) with an eye towards the real- ization of the embodied exchange value. The circulation of capital as value in motion is, therefore, the combined metabolic transformations of socio-natures in and through the circulation of money as capital under social relations that combine the mobilization of capital and labour power. New socio-natural forms are continuously produced as moments and things in this metabolic process (see Grundman 1991; Benton 1989; 1996; Burkett 1999; Foster 2000). While nature provides the foundation, the dynamics of social relations produce nature’s and society’s history. Whether we consider the production of dams, the re-engineering of rivers, the transfiguration of DNA codes, or the construction of a skyscraper, they all testify to the particular capitalist social relations through which socio-natural metabolisms are organized. Of course, the ambi- tion of classical Marxism was wider than reconstructing the dialectics of his- torical socio-natural transformations and their contradictions. It also insisted on the ideological notion of ‘nature’ in bourgeois science and society and claimed to uncover the ‘real’ Truth through the excavation of ‘underlying’ socio-ecological processes (Schmidt 1971; Smith 1984; Benton 1989). As Marx insisted in Grundrisse:

It is not the unity of living and active humanity with the natural, inorganic conditions of their metabolic exchange with nature, and hence their appropriation of nature, which requires explanation, or is the result of a historic process, but rather the separation between these inorganic conditions of human existence and this active existence, a separation which is completely posited only in the relation of wage labour and capital. (Marx 1973 (1858): 489)

However, by concentrating on the labour process per se, some Marxist analy- sis—particularly during the twentieth century—tended to replicate the very problem it meant to criticize. By relegating nature to the substratum for the unfolding of social relations, in particular labour relations, it maintained the material basis for social life while relegating ‘natural processes’ to a realm out-

Water, Nature, and Society 17

side the social. Ironically, this is almost identical to the bourgeois ideology which views nature as external to society, yet universal in its functioning. Put simply, the overemphasis on the social relations under capitalism that characterized much of Marxist analysis tended to abstract away from or ignore the metabolic relation with nature and resulted in a partial blindless in twentieth-century Marxism to questions of political ecology and socio- ecological metabolisms. Neil Smith’s Uneven Development (1984) represented a milestone in the repo- sitioning of nature and social-natural metabolism within the core of historical materialist analysis, by insisting that nature is an integral part of a ‘process of production’. The latter concept, borrowed from Henri Lefebvre (1991 (1974) ), suggests that nature itself is a historical geographical process (time/place spe- cific), insists on the inseparability of society and nature, and maintains the unity of socio-nature as a historically produced thing. In brief, both society and nature are produced, hence malleable, transformable, and transgressive. Smith does not suggest that all non-human processes are socially produced, but argues that the idea of some sort of pristine nature (‘First Nature’ in Lefebvre’s account) becomes increasingly problematic as historical socio- nature produces entirely new ‘nature’ over space and time, and the number of hybrids and quasi-objects proliferates and multiplies. Indeed, the objects and subjects of daily life have always been socio-natural, and with the process of ‘modernization’ have become increasingly so. Consider, for example, the socio- ecological transformations of entire ecological systems (through agriculture, for example), sand and clay metabolized into concrete buildings, or the con- tested production of new genomes such as Oncomouse tm (Haraway 1997). Anthony Giddens (1990) suggests that in this context we have reached ‘The End of Nature’. Of course, he does not imply that nature has disappeared, but rather that there is no longer anything ‘out there’ which has not been trans- formed, tainted, or metabolized by society/culture. Whereas pre-modernity was subject to the consequences of nature, modernity attacked nature by trans- forming it. The ‘End of Nature’ implies, therefore, the construction of a new nature, a nature that still hides serious consequences from humans. This is the theme Ulrich Beck (1992; 1995) elaborates. The possibility of producing ‘new’ nature, ranging from nuclear installations to dams, entails the proliferation of ‘risk’. Risk should be understood here not in terms of hazards, but in terms of the unexpected and unknowable implications of producing new nature and the problems that individuals, social groups, states, and science face in the process. A new modernity looms around the corner, one in which tension and conflict are still rife, but one which also holds the promise of fabricating socio-nature more in tune with the desires, aspirations, and demands of humans. In sum, the ‘world’ is a historical geographical process of perpetual metabo- lism in which ‘social’ and ‘natural’ processes combine in a historical geo- graphical ‘production process of socio-nature’ whose outcome (historical nature) embodies chemical, physical, social, economic, political, and cultural

18

Water, Nature, and Society

SOCIAL SOCIAL RELATIONSRELATIONS RELATIONS
SOCIAL
SOCIAL
RELATIONSRELATIONS
RELATIONS

Fig. 1.1. The dialectics of the material production of socio-nature.

processes in highly contradictory but inseparable manners (Castree 2001). Every body and every thing is a cyborg, a mediator, part social, part natural, lacking discrete boundaries and internalizing the multiple contradictory rela- tions that redefine and rework them. Take the example of urban water. Drink- ing tap water combines the circulation of productive, merchant and financial capital with the production of land rent and their associated class relations; the ecological transformation of hydrological complexes and the biochemical process of purification with the libidinous sensation and the physiological necessity of drinking fluids; the social regulation of access to water with images of clarity, cleanliness, health, and virginity. Although it is impossible to separate these ‘concepts’ and practices from each other in the flow of water, it does not take much to identify the profound social, cultural, political, and ecological forces, struggles and power relations at work in this perpetual metabolizing cir- culation process of flowing water as represented diagramatically in Figure 1.1.

1.3.2 The cultural critique

However ‘true’ the above may be, it nevertheless remains caught in a ‘represen- tational’ discourse of knowledge production which denies, ignores or, at least, fails to problematize how this representation of socio-nature is itself inevitably

Water, Nature, and Society

19

LANGUAGELANGUAGELANGUAGE
LANGUAGELANGUAGELANGUAGE

Fig. 1.2. The dialectics of the representational production of socio-nature.

caught in a web of symbolic and discursive meanings. Recent ‘post-Marxist’ or ‘post-’modernist accounts which have challenged the possibility of construct- ing ‘The Truth’about the world, have therefore challenged the very assumption on which the above rests. Many Western historical materialist perspectives made such truth claims their own, both in attempting to ‘unveil’ the ideological construction of other epistemes and in arguing for the ‘real’ science of histori- cal materialism. As Castree (1995) argues, historians of science and cultural theorists alike have insisted that ‘socio-nature’ is not just ‘out there’ but becomes constructed via time/place specific modes of technological, political, and ‘staged’ appropriation of ‘filtered facts’ (‘scientific’ experiments or meth- ods are a case in point); that the production of ‘knowledge(s)’ proceeds in and through representational systems or discursive apparatuses where reality resides in the representation, yet remains outside of it; and that the presumed correspondence of the concept with the thing is as much infused with the ‘cul- tural’ position of the representer as with the materiality of the process repre- sented. Put simply, the representation of ‘reality’ previously described remains caught in the sociocultural situatedness of the times and places of representa- tion (Whatmore 2002). Sensitivity to the constructions of representations of and discourses on ‘socio-nature’ are diagrammatically represented in Figure 1.2, which is apparently fundamentally at odds with Figure 1.1.

20

Water, Nature, and Society

Despite the implicit claim made in the first half of this section of the pos- sibility of constructing a ‘Truth’ of socio-nature via a historical materialist analysis of the internal dialectical relations of the perpetual socio-physical metabolism of socio-nature, cultural critics and historians of science (nature) not only question the very possibility of such a claim, but also, more impor- tantly, insist on the inevitable non-neutrality or positionality of such claims (Haraway 1991; Latour 1993; 1999). In short, constructing knowledge is in itself a deeply historical, dialectical, power-full process that is infused with and embodies the very metabolisms it claims to reconstruct as the very materiality of socio-nature itself. The ‘real’ metabolism encircled by a political ecological episteme is itself encapsulated within and engulfed by the equally real discur- sive/linguistic/cultural construction of reality. Put simply, our claim of the socio-natural production process of socio-nature is itself caught in a represen- tational discourse that produces nature/society (socio-nature) in a particular partial fashion. This insight, of course, makes our claim to ‘truth’as vulnerable to ‘relativist’ interpretations as any other. Yet we cannot easily dismiss these post-Enlightenment criticisms, and in what follows I shall outline a possible way out of this paradox. This argument, in turn, will frame the analysis of the urbanization of water in Guayaquil.

1.4 Muddling through HYBRIDITY: flow, process, and dialectics

I believe that Henri Lefebvre’s work, properly amended, can come to the rescue here. For Lefebvre (1991), capturing space or socio-nature from a dialectical and emancipatory perspective implies constructing multiple narratives that relate material, representational, and symbolic practices, each of which have a series of particular characteristics, and internalizes the dialectical relations defined by the other ‘domains’, but none of which can be reduced to the other. Of course, the production process of socio-nature includes both material processes (constructing edifices and manufacturing new genetic materials) as well as the proliferation of discursive and symbolic representations of nature. As Lefebvre (1991) insisted, the production of nature (space) transcends merely material conditions and processes, and becomes related to the produc- tion of discourses on nature (mainly by scientists, engineers, and the like) on the one hand and powerful images and symbols inscribed in this thing called ‘nature’ (virginity, a moral code, originality, ‘survival of the fittest’, wilderness, etc.) on the other. In short, Lefebvre’s triad opens up an avenue for enquiry which insists on the ‘materiality’of each of the component elements, but whose content can be approached only via the excavation of the metabolism of their becomings in which the internal relations are the signifying and producing mechanisms. In other words, Lefebvre insists on the ontological priority of process and flux, which becomes interiorized in each of the moments of the

Water, Nature, and Society

21

production process, but always in a fleeting, dynamic, and transgressive manner. Whether we discuss the process of speciation or the symbolic mean- ings of nature to city folks, it is the stories of the process of their perpetual reworking that elucidates their being as part of a process of continuous trans- formation in which the stories themselves will subsequently take part. Latour’s networks and quasi-objects need to be historicized, as following Ariadne’s thread through the Gordian knot of socio-nature’s networks—as Latour sug- gests—is not good enough if this is stripped from the process of its historical geographical production (Escobar 1999). Hybridization is a process of pro- duction, of becoming, of perpetual transgression. Lefebvre’s insistence on temporality(ies), combined with Latour’s networked reconstruction of quasi- objects, provides a glimpse of how a reworked political ecology of the city might be practised. The production process of socio-nature embodies both material pro- cesses and the proliferating discursive and symbolic representations of nature. Therefore, if we maintain a view of dialectics as internal relations (Olman 1993; Balibar 1995; Harvey 1996) as opposed to external recursive relationships, then we must insist on the need to transcend the binary for- mations of nature and society and develop a new language that maintains the dialectical unity of the process of change as embodied in the thing itself. ‘Things’ are hybrids or quasi-objects (subjects and objects, material and dis- cursive, natural and social) from the very beginning. By this I mean that the ‘world’ is a process of perpetual metabolism in which social and natural processes combine in a historical geographical production process of socio- nature, whose outcome (historical nature) embodies chemical, physical, social, economic, political, and cultural processes in highly contradictory but insep- arable manners. Figure 1.3 summarizes this argument. None of the component parts is reducible to the other, yet their constitution arises from the multiple dialectical relations that swirl out from the production process itself. Consequently, the parts are always implicated in the constitution of the ‘thing’ and are never out- side the process of its making. In sum, then, the above perspective is a process- based episteme in which nothing is ever fixed or, at best, fixity is the transient moment that can never be captured in its entirety as the flows perpetually destroy and create, combine, and separate. This particular dialectical perspec- tive also insists on the non-neutrality of relations in terms of both their opera- tion and their outcome, thereby politicizing both processes and fluxes. It also sees distinct categories (nature, society, city, species, water etc.) as the outcome of materially discursive practices that are creatively destroyed in the very pro- duction of socio-nature. It is, of course, this perspective that Harvey (1996) insists on as being the epistemological entry into the excavation of the political-ecology of capital- ism. A number of analytical tools arising from this formulation are useful for the political-ecological study of water:

22

Water, Nature, and Society

DISCURSIVEDISCURSIVE DISCURSIVE LANGUAGELANGUAGELANGUAGE CONSTRUCTIONS CONSTRUCTIONSCONSTRUCTIONS SOCIAL SOCIALSOCIAL
DISCURSIVEDISCURSIVE DISCURSIVE
LANGUAGELANGUAGELANGUAGE
CONSTRUCTIONS CONSTRUCTIONSCONSTRUCTIONS
SOCIAL
SOCIALSOCIAL
RELATIONSRELATIONS RELATIONS
BIO-CHEMICALBIO-CHEMICAL BIO-CHEMICAL
CULTURALCULTURALCULTURAL PRACTICESPRACTICESPRACTICES
PHYSICAL PHYSICALPHYSICAL PROCESSES PROCESSESPROCESSES
MATERIAL PRACTICES

Fig. 1.3. The production of socio-nature.

1. Although we cannot escape the ‘thing’, transformative knowledges about

water and the waterscape can only be gauged from reconstructing the processes of its production.

2. There is no ‘thing-like’ ontological or essential foundation (social, nat-

ural, or textual), as the process of becoming and of hybridization has ontolog- ical and epistemological priority.

3. As every quasi-object/cyborg/hybrid internalizes the multiple relations of

its production, ‘any-thing’ can be entered as the starting point for undertaking the archaeology of her/his/its socio-natural metabolism (the production of her/his/its socio-nature).

4. This archaeology has always already begun and is never ending (cf.

Althusser’s infamous ‘history as a process without a subject’), and is therefore

always open, contested, and contestable.

5. Given the non-neutral and intensely powerful forces through which

socio-nature is produced, this perspective does not necessarily lead to a rela- tivist position. Every archaeology and its associated narratives and practices are always implicated in and consequences of this very production process. Knowledge and practice are always situated in the web of social power rela- tions that define and produce socio-nature.

6. The notion of a socio-natural production transcends the binary distinc-

tions between society/nature, material/ideological, and real/discursive.

Water, Nature, and Society

23

The characteristics of the particular political ecological perspective on which I draw (see also Benton 1996; Keil and Graham 1998; Keil 2000; O’Connor 1998; Peet and Watts 1996; Swyngedouw 1999; Gandy 2002) can now be summarized as follows:

1. Environmental and social changes co-determine each other (Noorgaard

1994; O’Connor 1994). Processes of socio-environmental change transform both social and physical environments and produce social and physical milieus

with new and distinct qualities. In other words (urban) environments are com- bined socio-physical constructions that are actively and historically produced, both in terms of social content and physical-environmental qualities (Escobar 1999; 2001; Latour 1993; 1999; Roberts and Emel 1992).

2. There is nothing a priori unnatural about produced environments such as

cities, lakes, or irrigated fields (Harvey 1996). Produced environments are spe- cific historical results of socio-environmental processes.

3. The type and character of physical and environmental change, and the

resulting environmental conditions, are not independent from the specific his-

torical social, cultural, political, or economic conditions and the institutions that accompany them (Swyngedouw 1997; 1999).

4. All socio-spatial processes are invariably also predicated upon the trans-

formation or metabolism of physical, chemical, or biological components (Swyngedouw 1996b).

5. These metabolisms produce a series of both enabling and disabling social

and environmental conditions. Indeed, these produced milieus often embody contradictory tendencies. While environmental (both social and physical) qualities may be enhanced in some places and for some people, these often lead

to a deterioration of social and physical conditions and qualities elsewhere (Martinez-Allier 1991; Peet and Watts 1996; Keil 2000).

6. Processes of socio-environmental change are, therefore, never socially or

ecologically neutral. This results in conditions under which particular trajecto- ries of socio-environmental change undermine the stability or coherence of some social groups or places, while the sustainability of social groups and places elsewhere might be enhanced. In sum, the political ecological examina-

tion of the urbanization process reveals the inherently contradictory nature of the process of socio-environmental change and teases out the inevitable con- flicts (or the displacements thereof) that infuse socio-environmental change.

7. Particular attention, therefore, is paid to social power relations (whether

material or discursive, economic, political, and/or cultural) through which socio-environmental processes take place. It is these power geometries and the social actors who carry them out that ultimately decide who will have access to or control over, and who will be excluded from access to or control over,

resources or other components of the environment. These power geometries, in turn, shape the particular social and political configurations and the environ- ments in which we live.

24

Water, Nature, and Society

8. Questions of socio-environmental sustainability thereby become funda-

mentally political questions. Political ecology attempts to tease out who gains from and who pays for, who benefits from and who suffers (and in what ways) from particular processes of socio-environmental change. It also seeks answers

to questions about what or who needs to be sustained and how this can be

maintained or achieved.

9. Political-ecological perspectives seek to unravel the nature of the social

relationships that unfold between individuals and social groups and how these, in turn, are mediated by and structured through processes of ecological change. In other words, environmental transformation is not independent from class, gender, ethnic, or other power struggles. 10. It also seeks to question the actual processes of environmental recon- struction and recasting and advocates a position on sustainability that is achieved by means of a democratically controlled and organized process of socio-environmental (re-)construction. The political programme, then, of political ecology is to enhance the democratic content of socio-environmental construction by means of identifying the strategies through which a more equi- table distribution of social power and a more inclusive mode of environmental

production can be achieved.

While reconstructing the production processes of socio-natural networks along the lines presented above is difficult, I would maintain that such a per- spective has profound implications for understanding the relationship between capitalism, modernity, ecology, space, and contemporary social life. It also has implications for transformative and emancipatory ecological politics.

1.5 Emancipatory hybrids

A number of recent contributions to this debate have begun to address this

problematic in one way or another. William Cronon (1991), for example, in Nature’s Metropolis, tells the story of Chicago from the vantage point of the socio-natural processes that transformed both city and countryside and pro- duced the particular political ecology that shaped the transformation of the mid-West and produced a particular American socio-nature. While sympto- matically silent about the myriad of struggles that have infused this process (African-American, women’s, and workers’ organizations and struggles are notoriously absent from or marginalized in his narrative), the book marks interesting and powerful pointers on the way to a political ecology of the city. Mike Davis (1990), for his part, in City of Quartz and other recent publica- tions (Davis 1995; 1998) suggests how nature and society become materially and discursively constructed in and through the dialectics of Los Angeles’ urbanization process, and how multiple social struggles have infused and

shaped this process in deeply uneven, exclusive, and empowering/disempower-

Water, Nature, and Society 25

ing ways. For him, homelessness and racism combine with pollution, earth- quakes and water scarcity as the most acute socio-ecological problems that have been produced through the particular form of post-industrial capitalist development that has shaped Los Angeles as the Third World Megalopolis. Indeed, the history of Los Angeles’ urbanization process indicates how the socio-ecological transformation of desert lands, the manufacture of an orchard socio-nature, and subsequent construction of ‘silicon’ landscapes is paralleled by urbanizing, capturing and controlling ever larger and distant catchments, by speculatively pushing the frontier of ‘developable’ land further outwards and by an ever-changing, but immensely contested and socially sig- nificant (in terms of access and exclusion; empowerment/disempowerment) choreography of national laws, rules, and engineering projects (Worster 1985; Gottlieb and Fitzsimmons 1991). Of course, as the deserts bloomed, ecological and social disaster hit: water scarcity, pollution, congestion, and lack of sewage-disposal combined with mounting economic and racial tensions and a rising environmentalism (O’Connor 1998: 118; Gottlieb 1993; Keil and Desfor 1996; Keil 1998). The rhetoric of disaster, risk, and scarcity often provided the discursive vehicles through which power-brokers could continuously reinvent their boosterist dream. Picturing a simulacrum of drought, scarcity and a return to the desert produced a spectacularized vision of the dystopian city whose fate is directly related to faith in the administrators, engineers, and technicians who make sure the tap keeps flowing and land keeps being ‘devel- oped’. The hidden stories of pending socio-ecological disaster provide the ferment in which local, regional, and national socio-natures are combined with engineering narratives, land speculation, and global flows of water, wine, and money. Matthew Gandy (2002) narrates with great skill and in exquisite detail the reworking of nature in New York City, a reworking that is simultaneously material and physical, and embedded in political, social, and cultural framings of nature. At the same time, the myriad power relations and political strategies that infuse the socio-environmental metabolism of New York’s socio-nature are meticulously excavated and taken to centre stage in the reconstruction of contemporary New York as a cyborg city. In the next chapter, we shall tentatively explore this perspective somewhat further. Our vantage point will be the circulation of water, its insertion in the metabolism of the city and in the political ecology of the urbanization process. The flow of water, in its material, symbolic, political and discursive construc- tions, embodies and expresses exactly how the ‘production of nature’ is both arena and outcome of the tumultuous reordering of socio-nature in ever- changing and intricate manners. This flow of water as a socio-environmental metabolic process and its historical geographical production process will be used as an entry point to excavate the process of modern urbanization in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The production of the city as a cyborg, excavated through the analysis of the circulation of hybridized water, opens up a new

26

Water, Nature, and Society

arena for thinking and acting on the city; an arena that is neither local nor global, but that weaves a network that is always simultaneously deeply local- ized and extends its reach over a certain scale, a certain spatial surface. The tensions, conflicts and forces that flow with water through the body, the city, the region and the globe show the cracks in the lines, the meshes in the net, the spaces and plateaus of resistance and of power.

2

The City in a Glass of Water:

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

In the period of which we speak [eighteenth-century France], there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of mouldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchens of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlours stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamber-pots. The stench of sulphur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces. The peasant stank as did the priest, the appren- tice as did his master’s wife, the whole of the aristocracy stank, even the King himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the Queen like an old goat, summer and winter.

Patrick Suskind 1987: 3

2.1 The socio-hydrological metabolism of urban water

In recent years, an impressive body of work has emerged in the wake of the resurgence of the environmental question on the political agenda, addressing the environmental implications of urban change or issues related to urban sustainability (Haughton and Hunter 1994; Satterthwaite 1999). In many, if not all, of these cases, the environment is defined in terms of a set of ecological criteria pertaining to the physical milieu. Both urban sustainability and the environmental impacts of the urban process are primarily understood in terms of physical environmental conditions and characteristics. We start from a different position. As explored in Chapter 1, urban water cir- culation and the urban hydrosocial cycle are the vantage points from which the urbanization process will be analysed in this book. In this Chapter, a glass of

28

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

water will be my symbolic and material entry point into an—admittedly some- what sketchy—attempt to excavate the political ecology of the urbanization process.¹ If I were to capture some urban water in a glass, retrace the networks that brought it there and follow Ariadne’s thread through the water, ‘I would pass with continuity from the local to the global, from the human to the non- human’ (Latour 1993: 121). These flows would narrate many interrelated tales:

of social and political actors and the powerful socio-ecological processes that produce urban and regional spaces; of participation and exclusion; of rats and bankers; of water-borne disease and speculation in water industry related futures and options; of chemical, physical, and biological reactions and trans- formations; of the global hydrological cycle and global warming; of uneven geographical development; of the political lobbying and investment strategies of dam builders; of urban land developers; of the knowledge of engineers; of the passage from river to urban reservoir. In sum, my glass of water embodies multiple tales of the ‘city as a hybrid’. The rhizome of underground and sur- face water flows, of streams, pipes and networks is a powerful metaphor for processes that are both social and ecological (Kaïka and Swyngedouw 2000). Water is a ‘hybrid’ thing that captures and embodies processes that are simul- taneously material, discursive, and symbolic. Water is of course biochemically vital, embodies deep social meaning and cultural value, and internalizes powerful socio-economic and physical relations. It is increasingly becoming part of a new ‘accumulation strategy’ (Fitzsimmons 1989; Katz 1998) through the privatization of waters that were often part of a common or collective good. Yet life in any form is scarcely imaginable in the absence of water. The socio-natural production of the city is predicated upon some system of circulating water. The multiple temporalities and interpenetrating circulations of water (the hydrological cycle, canalization and distribution networks, treatment stations, etc.) illustrate the perpetual metabolism and mobilizations of water. Moreover, there are water problems of gigantic dimensions worldwide (Ward 1997; Petrella 1998), with over one bil- lion people lacking access to reasonably potable water. Mega-cities in the developing world suffer from immense water shortages, while the water metab- olism in developed cities threatens the very metabolism of urban life as pollu- tants of all kinds challenge the very sustainability of the capitalist city and the metabolism of social and biological life (Gleick 1993; Postel 1992). In addition, water carries powerful symbolic meanings (health, purity, naturalness), which in recent years have been successfully ‘mined’ by a burgeoning global multi- billion dollar mineral water industry. Our glass of water relates all things/subjects in a network, connects the most intimate of socio-spatial relations, inserts them into a mesmerizing political economy of urban, national and international development, and is part of a

¹ For fuller accounts of aspects of this argument, see Swyngedouw (1995a, b; 1996b). For a more detailed reconstruction of various interwoven water narratives, see Swyngedouw (1999).

Circulating Water, Circulating Power 29

chain of local, regional, national, and global circulations of water, money, texts, and bodies. In this sense, I would insist that we can reconstruct, and hence theorize the urbanization process as a political ecological process with water as the entry point: water that embodies biochemical and physical properties, cul- tural and symbolic meanings, and socio-economic characteristics simultane- ously and inseparably. These multiple metabolisms of water are structured and organized through socio-natural power relations—relations of domination and subordination, of access and exclusion, of emancipation and repression— which then become etched into the flow and metabolisms of circulating water. This flow of water produces not only a physical geography and a material land- scape, but also a symbolic and cultural landscape of power. The waterscape is a liminal landscape (to use Zukin’s words (1991) ) in which the cyborg character of the transgression between socio-nature and nature’s society is per- petually emptied out, filled in again, and transformed (see Keil 1994). This cir- culation of water is embedded in and interiorizes a series of multiple power relations along ethnic, gender, and class lines (see Swyngedouw 1995a). These situated power relations, in turn, swirl out and operate at a variety of inter- related geographical scale levels, form the scale of the body upward to the political ecology of the city to the global scale of uneven development. The capturing, sanitizing, and biochemical metabolizing of water to produce ‘urban’ drinking water simultaneously homogenizes, standardizes, and trans- forms it into a commodity as well as into the real/abstract homogenized quali- ties of money power in its manifold symbolic, cultural, social, and economic meanings. The struggle for water, and competition over access to it, capture wider processes of the political ecology of urbanization, and produce the mul- tiple and scaled power relationships to which we will now turn our attention.

2.2 Urbanizing water

It is, of course, fairly trivial to say that the urbanization process is predicated upon myriad socio-ecological transformations that affect the geographies of places both nearby and far away (Cronon 1991; Hundley 1992; Gottlieb and Fitzsimmons 1991). This intense socio-environmental transformation is required to ‘sustain’ the dynamics of contemporary urban change, resulting in the formation of various new environments—from concrete urban landscapes to aquatic ecosystems around reservoirs. The process of urbanization is both a historically specific accumulation of socio-environmental processes and the arena through which these transformations take place. The material and imagined bond between water and urban space as social creations provides an ever-changing material and metaphorical surface that produces a narrative of the history and geography of water. Water has always possessed powerful con- notations and conveyed important symbolic messages. ‘Naturalness’, virginity,

30

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

healing, and purification have often been associated with water, while water spectacles have in many ways testified to the power and the glory of various kinds of (urban) elites (Moore and Lidz 1994; Schama 1995). For example, the cultural links between female nudity and the tap water of the bathroom began to be formed in the second half of the nineteenth century, as the sprinkling of water from an intricately engineered network of pipes over the naked (female) body became part of the fantasy of sexual intimacy (Illich 1986: 1). Simultane- ously, water became a commodity, expressing the social relationships within the space through which it circulated and to which it gave form and content. The biological necessity of water ensured that urbanization was predicated upon organizing, controlling, and mastering its socio-natural circulation. For example, in Mexico City, 60% of all urban potable water is distributed to 3% of the households, whereas 50% make do on 5%. In Guayaquil, 65% of the urban dwellers receive 3% of the produced potable water at a price that is at least two hundred times higher (20,000%) than that paid by the low-volume consumer connected to the piped urban water network. The mechanisms of exclusion from and access to water manifest the power relationships through which the geography of cities is shaped and transformed. The history of the urbanization of water illustrates the intricate ways in which the image and reality of water access and use is bound up with social transformations and the formation of the modern city. The urbanization of life and the urbanization of water are intimately connected. But this urbanization of water as we know and accept it today is dependent on viewing water circulation as a perpetual movement from the ‘natural’ source to and through the city via a series of social and physical metabolic transformations, until it ends up once again at the source, reinte- grated into the flow of ‘natural’ water. Cities first became dependent on water flowing through aqueducts that pierced the city wall, or from wells penetrating the earth. Nine major aque- ducts, with a total length of over 400 kilometres, supplied approximately 400 litres of water per capita per day to ancient Rome, which had a population of approximately a million by  100. However, one fifth of this water was assigned to the emperor, whilst another two-fifths fed the city’s 591 fountains and dozen public baths (see Scobie 1986). In contrast, in 1823, London, Frankfurt, and Paris had 3 litres per capita per day, a figure which had only risen to approximately 40 litres by 1936 (Mumford 1961); a volume less than that found in many cities in the colonial or post-colonial world at that time. Water brought from afar to ancient non-Roman cities was usually absorbed by city soil, as sewers that channelled piped water remained the exception. In Rome, water from fountains flowed over the streets and into the Tiber.

2.2.1 The invention of circulation

The concept of ‘water circulation’, with water following a given path into, through, and finally out of the city by the sewers remained foreign to western

Circulating Water, Circulating Power 31

urban imaginations, spatial representations, and engineering systems until the nineteenth century. Modern urbanization, highly dependent on the mastering of circulating water, is linked with the representation of water as a circulatory system. Before the ‘discovery’ of circulatory systems, the movement of water was seen merely as evaporation: the separation of the ‘spirit’ from the ‘water’ (Goubert 1989). Phlogiston theory, the representation of the respiratory system, plant growth, and the physiocratic view of the production of material wealth all indicate that Renaissance people did not conceive of ‘circulation’ as an infinite cyclical process. The idea of a material flowing forever back to its own source signalled a major breakthrough. When William Harvey stated his ideas of the double circulation of blood in the vascular system of the body in 1628, a revolutionary insight came into being which would begin to permeate and dominate, both metaphorically and materially, everyday life, engineering and academic practice for centuries to come.² By the end of the seventeenth century, medical practice had accepted the idea of the circulatory (metabolic) system, and by the nineteenth century the metabolic circulation of chemical substances and organic matter became increasingly accepted and began to form the basis of modern ecology. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the term ‘circulation’ of liquids had become established in many sciences, from the flow of sap in plants to the circulation of matter in chemical reactions (Teich 1982). From about 1750, wealth and money were spoken of as ‘circulating’ as though they were liquids, flowing incessantly as part of a process of accumulation and growth, and society began to be imagined as a system of conduits (Sennett 1994). ‘Liquid- ity’ arose as a dominant metaphor after the French Revolution: ideas, newspa- pers, gossip and—after 1880—traffic, air, and power were said to ‘circulate’. Montesquieu in Lettres Persanes (p. 117) speaks of ‘[T]he more “circulation” the more wealth’ and in l’Esprit des Lois of ‘[M]ultiply wealth by increasing “circulation” ’. Jean Jacques Rousseau (1766) refers to ‘[T]his useful and fecund circulation that enlivens all society’s labour’ and to ‘a “circulation of labour”as one speaks of the circulation of the money’ (cited in Illich 1986: 23). Adam Smith and, in particular, Karl Marx conceived of a capitalist economy as a metabolic system of circulating money and commodities, carried by and structured through social interactions and relations, in which accumulation is dependent on the swiftness by which money circulates through society. Each hiccup or deceleration of circulation threatened to unleash the infernal forces of devaluation, crisis, and chaos. Society’s wealth and the relationships of power on which wealth is constructed were seen as being intrinsically bound up

² The first person to suggest the circulation of blood in the arterial system was apparently Ibn- an-Nafiz (physician, born in Baghdad and died in Cairo in 1288) (Illich 1986: 40). The idea of circulation remained alien to the imagination of sixteenth-century Europeans. Two sixteenth-century scientists sus- pected what Harvey would later discover: Servetus (a Spanish genius and heretic burnt by Calvin—he also edited Ptolemy’s geography in Lyon and was a student of Vesalius in Paris) and Realdus Colombus of Padua (also a student of Vesalius). Harvey was a student of Vesalius in 1603.

32

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

with and expressed by the ‘circulation speed’ of money in all its forms (capital, labour, commodities) (Harvey 2002). The development and consolidation of circulating money as the basis for material life and the relations of domination and exclusion through which the circulation of money is organized and main- tained shapes the ‘urbanization of capital’ (Harvey 1985) and, inevitably, the ‘urbanization of water’. The status of water within city space changed as the purifying and cleaning power of water began to dominate the metaphorically constructed healing and rejuvenating water rituals of baptism and exorcising miasma. By the mid- nineteenth century some British architects begin to speak of the inner city using the same metaphor of circulation, and in 1842 Sir Edwin Chadwick formulated the ideology of circulating waters effectively for the first time. Chadwick (1842) presented a report on the sanitary conditions of the labour- ing population of Great Britain which Lewis Mumford has called ‘the classic summary of paleo-technic horrors’. In his report, Chadwick imagined the new city as ‘a social body through which water must incessantly circulate, leaving it again as dirty sewage’. Water ought to ‘circulate’through the city without inter- ruption to wash it of sweat, excrement, and waste. The brisker this flow, the fewer stagnant pockets that breed pestilence there are and the healthier the city will be. Unless water constantly circulates through the city, pumped in and channelled out, the interior space imagined by Chadwick can only stagnate and rot. This representation of urban space as constructed in and through perpet- ually circulating flows of water is conspicuously similar to imagining the city as

a vast reservoir of perpetually circulating money. In fact, Chadwick’s papers

were published under the title The Health of Nations during the centenary com- memoration for Adam Smith (Chadwick 1887). Like the individual body and

bourgeois society, the city was now also described as a network of pipes and conduits. The brisker the flow, the greater the wealth, the health, and hygiene of the city would be (Vigarello 1988). Just as William Harvey redefined the body postulating the circulation of the blood, so Chadwick redefined the city by ‘dis- covering’ its needs to be constantly washed (Illich 1986: 45). And of course, Baron von Haussman, the engineer who masterminded the reorganization of Paris’s cityscape also successfully mobilized the metaphor of ‘circulation’ to impress and convince the city’s leaders of the necessity of his grandiose project (Gandy 1999); a project that would permit all sorts of flows, from sewage to people and commodities, to move more swiftly through the city. Later, David Harvey (1985) would analyse the circulation of capital and its urbanization as

a perpetuum mobile channelled through a myriad of ever-changing produc-

tion, communication, and consumption networks, driven by a motley crew of financial speculators, profit-seeking capitalists, visionary urbanists, and enlightened elites striving to modernize and ‘civilize’ urban life. With this enlightenment idea of ‘circulation’, the utopia of the odourless,

clean, purified city appears:

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

33

[The] effort to deodorize utopian city space should be seen as one aspect of the archi- tectural effort to ‘clear’ city space for the reconstruction of a modern capital. It can be interpreted as the repression of smelly persons who unite their separate auras to create a smelly crowd of commonfolk. Their common aura must be dissolved to make space for a new city through which clearly delineated individuals can circulate with unlimited freedom. For the nose of a city without aura is literally a ‘Nowhere’, a u-topia’. (Illich 1986: 53)

The image and practice of water, now disciplined and harnessed in circulatory urban water systems, was profoundly transformed. Defecating became a sex- specific activity for the first time in history towards the middle of the eighteenth century, as separate latrines for men and women were set up—but only for spe- cial occasions (Corbin 1994). At the end of that century, Marie Antoinette had a door installed to her lavatory, thus turning the act of defecation into an inti- mate function (Illich 1986: 57). The degree to which it is practised in private also signals a certain social status and an embracing of superior civic morality (Vigarello 1988). On 15 November 1793, the French revolutionary convention solemnly declared each man’s right to his own bed, thus enshrining the right to be surrounded by a buffer zone protecting the citizen from the aura of others. The private bed, stool, and grave became requisites of a citizen’s dignity. Chil- dren began to learn that hygiene and sanitary activities are a solemn, private process (Goubert 1989), again indicating a profound redefinition of the self and the body in the ‘utopian’ urban space. The toilette of the whole city was undertaken in parallel with the privatiza- tion of body relief and the attempt to retrench people’s auras, reducing each other to an odourless point in the new civic space. This culminated in the modern design principles, heralding clean air, ventilation, pure water, and treated sewage (Kaïka and Swyngedouw 2000). Water became a detergent of smell, as one could move up the social ladder only through eliminating body smells. It was not until the nineteenth century that soap became associated with body laundry and the social repression of smell became an element in the class struggle of the elite in search of ‘cultural capital’ to distinguish themselves from the ‘smelly’ commoners. Shortly afterwards, perfume and the ‘domestica- tion of aura’ (Illich 1986: 62) became employed in the act of seduction, no longer merely covering body smell, but artificially providing secondary sexual characteristics to the new ‘human’ body. Like so many other characteristics— including work, health, and education—smell, too, is henceforth conceived as an abstract quality that is ‘naturally’ polarized into a female and a male type:

she smells of violets and roses and he of leather and tobacco. The old ‘toilette’ of the eighteenth century referred to a hydrophobic process (Illich 1986: 65) of combing, grooming, powdering, applying make-up and perfumed cosmetics, dressing, and finally receiving visitors in the boudoir. Frequent cleansing by means of water was not part of the toilette until the nineteenth century, but by the 1830s the word had come to mean the sponging of a naked body, invariably

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Circulating Water, Circulating Power

represented as belonging to a woman. From decade to decade, the amount of water used in the procedure increased. The toilette came to mean a tub bath, and around 1880, the industrial production of enamel paints replaced expen- sive copper with iron or zinc vessels and brought the tub within reach of simple families (Wright 1960). ‘Toilette’ retired behind closed doors (together with perfuming, shitting, and shaving), and began to involve the flow of tap water to carry soapsuds and excrements to the sewer (Goubert 1989). When the first urban water system in Guayaquil was installed, for example, the urban elites brought finely decorated lavatories and washing bowls from their trips to Europe to testify to their newly acquired sanitized civic conditions. Lower classes and indigenous people visited the houses to marvel at these symbols of a new elite urban order. The total bathroom was not installed overnight. It is revealing that the place in which the modern body is integrated into the circu- lation of city waters is called the ‘bath’-room. Its initial use, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (first mentioned only in the supplement of 1972) is traced to 1888. The choice of this term indicates that the identification of nature and the nude, which Ingres, Courbet, Degas, and Renoir had painted as taking place in rivers, under waterfalls, or in an ‘oriental’ hammam, was actu- ally performed in the intimacy of the toilette (Illich 1986: 66). Public space became increasingly hydrophobic and the public body in the western city des- perately tried to cover itself as protection from public waters and public gazes alike. Indeed, as Vigarello (1988: 216) attests, ‘the exclusion of others became an obligatory element in the cleanliness of the elite’. In sum, the increasingly commodified domestication of water announced the withdrawal of the urban elite body and bodily hygiene from the public or semi-public sphere and its retreat into the privacy and intimacy of the bathroom and the toilet. The hydrophobic public spaces were replaced by hydrophilic private spaces as bodily encounters were relegated to specially designed places. This, in turn, redefined the body and bodily relations. Nudity and exposing the naked body to the ‘elements’ became improper and uncivi- lized. The new sanitized and deodorized (washed) urban body in a sanitized urban public civic space redefined both class and gender relations. Images of (predominantly female) sexuality began to revolve around the secrets, inti- macy, and eroticism associated with the bathroom, the toilet, and the sprink- ling of domesticated water over the naked body (Corbin 1994). Of course, the newly de-odorized urban body, embodying quite literally a new civic, modern ideal, carried by an urban bourgeoisie that was becoming quickly self- confident of its new role, became re-odorized in new ways, expressing cultural distinction and power differentiation (Bourdieu 1986). But this new urban civic body also separated the sanitized bodies of the new urban elites from the peasant reeking of manure and the sweaty proletarian. Class and gender rela- tions became impregnated with smell and odour and the body aura became an element in cultural and social differentiation and power relations (Suskind 1987; Corbin 1994; Rindisbacher 1992).

Circulating Water, Circulating Power 35

Urban waterworks signalled this new class and gender differentiation. The mechanisms of exclusion from and access to unlimited quantities of potable water were cemented into the water engineering system itself and remain like this until this very day. In many Third World cities, for example, the elites, clus- tering around the water reservoirs, had and have unlimited access to water, which in addition to the above cultural distinctions, turned this into signifi- cantly longer life expectancy and into valued symbols of cultural capital and social power. In Guayaquil, permanently irrigated tropical gardens separate their often militarized urban oases in their gated communities from the urban desert that surrounds them, fountains in the courtyards testify to their social position. Images of the smelly peasant and unhygienic indigenous population re-enforce the position of water as an integral element of social power in the city and part of the process of the urbanization of nature. Nevertheless, water- related illnesses and deaths remain the major cause of infant mortality for most of the world’s population. In short, the urban ecological conquest of water and the fusion of water circulation with the urbanization process (for a vivid account see J. Vernes’s futuristic account of Paris (1994) ), its commodified domestication and related processes of access to and exclusion from access brought water squarely into the realm of urban social power.

2.2.2 Social power and water control

The domestication of water and the privatization of bodily hygiene were predicated upon and paralleled by an increasing commodification of water. The urbanization of water necessitated both ecological transformation (cap- turing water from underground aquifers or distant catchments, engineering its flow, negotiating geopolitical relations, transforming its chemical and biologi- cal properties and so forth) and social transformation. Indeed, the very homog- enization and standardization of ‘potable’ urban water propelled the diverse physical, chemical, and biological ‘natural’ flows and characteristics of nature’s water into the realm of commodity and money circulation with its abstract qualities and concrete social power relations. ‘Potable’ water became legally defined and standardized. Biochemical and physical treatment (adding or extracting substances) was required to homogenize water according to ‘scientific’ politically and socio-culturally defined norms that were enshrined in binding legislation. Homogenization, standardization, and legal codifica- tion are essential to the commodification process. The urban conquest and commodification of water brought H 2 O squarely into the sphere of money and cultural capital and its associated power rela- tions, and redrew socio-natural power relations in important new ways. The use of water for the cleaning of the body and the use of water for the ‘toilette’ of city spaces go hand-in-hand but not at the same pace in all modern nations. However, the urbanization of water through vast engineering systems of production, conduction, and distribution became an inherent element

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underpinning the urbanization of society in the nineteenth and twentieth cen- turies. The modern city had become a rhizome of networks and conduits. The ‘modern’ engineering systems through which water is mastered and becomes commodified demand large capital investments with installations that have a long life-span (sometimes 50 to 100 years) and an immense infrastruc- ture system that guides the circulation of water in an interconnected way over a large scale, often covering entire regions (Montano and Coing 1985). It is clear that such a system requires some form of central control and a coordi- nated, combined but detailed division of labour (see Wittfogel 1957; Worster 1985). In addition, the quantity, quality, and regularity of the circulating waters are determined by the weakest link in this detailed technical and social division of labour. Sufficiently large amounts of capital have to be amassed and sunk into the construction of massive engineering systems with long turnover times. The early private capital-based urban ‘watering’ initiatives were gradu- ally replaced by primarily state-funded investments in public waterworks, managed by large public or mixed public-private companies (Lorrain 1995) (see below). Circulating capital had to be captured and organized in fixed phys- ical infrastructures that would permit the ‘free’ circulation of clean water (as well as of the waste waters). In addition, the processes of water production, conduction, and distribution are necessarily spatially structured, shaping and being shaped by urban and regional geographies. Producing and providing water is essentially and neces- sarily a deeply localized activity, while transporting water is a difficult—and costly—process. This double tendency of modern water systems towards cen- tralization and central control on the one hand and the necessarily localized character of all parts of its circulation process on the other, works itself out in very contradictory and conflicting ways as will be documented in our study of Guayaquil. Although geo-climatic conditions such as the availability and type of natural water resources and pluvial regimes, as well as settlement patterns, are of a great importance for the organization of water management systems, these physical characteristics cannot be separated from the organization of human relations. Indeed, the relative scarcity of usable water will only influ- ence the mode of water management to the extent that social groups will enter into competition for its utilization and that relations of cooperation and rela- tions of power will translate themselves into specific institutional, managerial, and technological systems (Anton 1993). Montano and Coing (1985: 8) sum- marize this succinctly:

The management of water is, therefore, always the result of the social relationships which crystallise around its appropriation and its usage. It varies in function of both the geo-climatic constraints and the relationships of power between users.

The social struggle around water is evidently the result of the deeply exclu- sive and marginalizing political, economic, and ecological processes that drove the expansion of the city. The urbanization process is predicated upon the

Circulating Water, Circulating Power 37

mastering and engineering of nature’s water, with the ecological conquest of water as a necessary prerequisite for the expansion and growth of the city. At the same time, the capital required to build and expand the urban landscape is also generated through the political-ecological transformation of the city’s hinterland (Swyngedouw 1996b; 1997). In short, the political ecological his- tory of many cities can be written from the perspective of the need to urbanize and domesticate nature’s water and the parallel necessity to push the ecological frontier outward as the city expanded (see Chapters 4 and 5). As such the politi- cal ecological process produces both a new urban and rural socio-nature. The city’s growth, and the process of water urbanization is closely associated with successive waves of ecological conquest and the extension of the urban socio- ecological frontier. Local, regional, and national socio-natures are combined with engineering narratives, economic discourses and practices, land specula- tion, the geopolitics of water, and global money flows. Investments in bottled water companies, speculation in water industry-related financial instruments and global/local hydrological cycles fuse together in the production of hybridized waters and cyborg cities. Water circulation and the urbanization of water thus become deeply entrenched in the political-ecology of the local and national state, the international divisions of labour and power, and the local regional and global hydrological climatic cycles. In short, the urbanization of water and the social, economic, and cultural processes associated with the domestication of water brought access to nature’s water squarely into the realm of class, gender, and cultural differentiation and made water subject to an intense struggle for control and/or access. The com- modification of water, in turn, placed the circulation of water directly in the sphere of money circulation, which consequently made access to water depen- dent on positions of social power, both economically and in terms of gender and culture. Although the particular geographical and institutional configura- tions vary significantly from city to city and from country to country depend- ing on the particular combination of physical and institutional factors, the twentieth-century urbanization process and the accompanying expansion of water use significantly affected the spatial choreography of urban water circu- lation (Graham and Marvin 2001). For each expanding city, the physical terri- torial basis on which the successful watering of the city rests needs to expand as the city grows, in quantitative as well as in qualitative terms (Hundley 1992). Either new untapped water reserves have to be incorporated in the urban water cycle or existing water supplies tapped more intensely. In the case of aquifer water, this leads either to a problem of generalized over-pumping which out- strips the natural recharge capacities of aquifers or to a gradual decline in the quality of aquifer waters. The geographical expansion of the ecological foot- print of urban water not only transforms places and environments far removed from the city, but also intensifies conflicts with other users over limited water supplies. From the vantage point of the early twenty-first century, there is increasing evidence that the sustainability of urban development was bought

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at the expense of an expanding water frontier and of geographically widening the sphere of impact of the urban water cycle, leading to socially conflicting and socio-ecologically unsustainable practices of expanding resource extrac- tion and intensified struggle for control or access. In what follows, some of the above arguments will be marshalled to elucidate the central trends that charac- terize contemporary urban water management systems. The key points of ten- sion, conflict, rupture, and/or potential crisis will be discussed.

2.3 Critical moments in the contemporary urban hydrosocial cycle

2.3.1 The shifting political economy of water

Despite the recent debates that have raged over the privatization of urban water systems—debates that are often couched in terms of an inevitable and necessary adaptation of national policies to the requirements of a global and deregulated neo-liberal world economic order—shifting configurations of public–private partnerships have characterized changes in the urban water sector since the inception of modern supply systems (Hassan 1998; Castro and Swyngedouw 2000). The boundaries between public and private spheres have changed from time to time and relative balances have moved more to one side or the other, but in common with many other public goods, the water sector has been customarily characterized by a certain articulation of public and private actors. Most international studies show that the organization of urban water supply systems can be broadly divided into four stages (Hassan 1998). The first of these was the period up to the second half of the nineteenth century, when most urban water supply systems consisted mainly of relatively small private com- panies providing parts of the city (usually the richer parts) with water of vary- ing quality. Water provision was socially and spatially highly stratified and water businesses were aimed at generating profits for the investors. In colonial cities, waterworks tended to concentrate on the areas where the colonial elites, both domestic and imperial, lived and worked, although a variety of other local water distribution mechanisms were in place, including wells, fountains, and commercial door-to-door selling. This was followed by a period of municipalization, primarily prompted by concerns over deteriorating environmental conditions and calls for a sanitized city. In Europe, this took the form of municipal socialism with its concern for providing essential public goods at a basic, often highly subsidized, rate (Laski, Jennings, and Robson 1935; Millward 1991). Profitability was without any doubt a secondary concern and subsidies came from the general tax income (from either the local and/or the national state). This municipalization was also

Circulating Water, Circulating Power 39

supported by local elites who realized that their own health and environmental conditions were negatively affected by deteriorating environmental standards in the city. Water supply systems were consolidated, leading to a citywide stan- dardized coverage of domestic water supply, coupled with attempts to produce comprehensive sewage-disposal systems (albeit without treatment of sewage waters). In this period, the large cities in the developing world developed their water systems at a rate that was comparable with and occasionally even faster than those for comparably sized cities in the developed world. The third phase started approximately after the First World War, and turned the water industry, together with other major utility sectors (such as electricity and telecommunications), into a growing national concern. The national state was to take a much greater responsibility in providing public services, although with a varying degree of intensity of control, regulation, and capital input. Water infrastructure became—together with other major infrastructure works and programmes—part of a Fordist–Keynesian state led social and economic policy. The investments in grand infrastructure works (dams, canals, techno- logical networks) were part of an effort to generate and/or support economic growth, while simultaneously assuring a relative social peace by means of redistributive policies (Amin 1994; Moulaert and Swyngedouw 1987; Gandy 1997). Three objectives were central to this Fordist period of water expansion:

the creation of jobs; the generation of demand for investment goods from the private sector; and the provision of basic collective production and consump- tion goods (like water, education, housing) at a subsidized price for wage workers and industry alike. The combined result produced the classic model of state involvement in the post-war Keynesian expansion strategies. These trends can be identified around the world, although a widening gap began to manifest itself between Western cities and cities in the rest of the world. In particular, as will be documented in Chapter 6, waterworks for cities in the developing world became structurally dependent on global investment flows, notably through bilateral or multilateral loans. This dependency would ultimately, from the late 1970s onwards, wreak havoc when the debt crisis erupted and state-based investments were significantly curtailed (Montúfar 1990). During this post- war ‘Fordist’ era, the state played an ever-increasing role, nationalizing water provision in some instances, financing infrastructure projects, and generally increasing regulatory intervention, although in some cases management remained under the auspices of sub-national or municipal authorities. It was indeed also during this period that a variety of regulatory bodies (for social, economic, quality, or environmental regulation) were established, usually by and at the level of the national state. The fourth and most recent phase is associated with the demise of state-led economic growth and the subsequent transition to post-Fordist or flexible forms of economic development and governance. This started approximately with the global recession of the 1970s, and represents a time of radical changes in public/private interplay in the water sector (Estache, Gomez-Lobo, and

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Leipziger 2001; Bakker 2003). First of all, mounting economic problems— in the context of high public social and investment spending—resulted in growing budgetary difficulties for the national (and often also local) state. This necessitated a serious consideration of the direction of state spending, and resulted in a reduction of expenditures in the welfare sector and in supporting industrial sectors or infrastructure that ran structural deficits. Low prices, sub- sidized investments in water supply systems, and ageing water infrastructure put greater pressure on state budgets, a situation compounded by a continued increase in demand for water. Secondly, the call for greater competitiveness as a means to redress the economic crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s prompted a quest for efficiency gains and greater productivity through cutting bureau- cracy, deregulating labour markets, and increasing investment flexibility (Bakker 2002). This, in turn, was accompanied by privatization tendencies as a means to achieve both of the above solutions to the crisis of Fordism. More- over, the growing globalization of the economy and the accompanying changes in the nature of competition, the greater availability of private capital achieved by means of deregulation and de-territorialization of financial markets, and the imposition of strict budget norms (by the European Union, World Bank, or IMF) further shifted the balance in favour of the private sector. Thirdly, the standard democratic channels of government, which were often infused with the active lobbying power of social organizations (particularly unions), proved to be a considerable barrier to implementing swift policy changes. The political-economic configuration has, consequently, changed in important ways, resulting in new institutional arrangements (see below) permitting a more business- or market-oriented management more in tune with profit- making strategies (Swyngedouw, Page, and Kaïka 2002). Fourthly, capital began to search for new frontiers to incorporate. Nature in all its forms (includ- ing the production of new genetic materials) became part and parcel of new accumulation strategies. Water presented itself as a possible new frontier to cross, a potential source for turning H 2 O into money and profit. Private accu- mulation through ‘dispossession’, the privatization of what until recently had been primarily common or collective goods, became a favoured corporate strategy to seek out new investment niches (Bakker 2002). Finally, growing environmental problems and, consequently, the increasing number of actual and potential conflicts in the management and regulation of the water cycle proved to be a serious challenge for traditional forms of organization and implementation of water-related activities. Particularly in a context of more vocal and powerful civil society-based environmental groups, systems of gov- ernance needed to become more sensitive to these issues. Questions of restrict- ing or controlling demand (demand management) as a strategy for lower water consumption and hence taking away the pressures on expanding the urban water resource base became more loudly heard. The internalization of all these tensions within what remained a fundamentally state-owned and state- controlled sector became increasingly difficult (Swyngedouw 1998).

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

41

The combined effect of the above processes and dynamics resulted in a shift from water sectors that were state-managed to ones which were more in tune with globalized market forces and the imperatives of a competitive privatized economy (Kazemir, Leinin, and Schaub 2002). This represents both a practical as well as an ideological and discursive shift, and occurred with varying degrees of intensity in different countries. In some cases, actual privatization of water production and delivery took place (e.g. Buenos Aires, Jakarta, or the failed attempts in Cochabamba (see Crespo 2002a)), whereas in other cases (e.g. Amsterdam) publicly owned companies were increasingly required to act strategically, managerially, operationally, and organizationally as private companies with an eye towards potential future privatization. In addition, water businesses are now often part of global multi-location companies, or part of larger multi-utility companies such as Vivendi, RWE, or the late Enron. The debate over privatization, and the privatization process itself, have had and will continue to have profound implications in and for the water sector and beyond.³ The recent shift towards turning H 2 O into a commodity has dramati- cally changed the social and political meaning and cultural valuation of water. First of all, water is turned into profits and capital accumulation by private or public/private institutions. Supplying water therefore becomes a means to achieve an economic end: economic growth and profit maximization. To the extent that private companies do this, water-related activities become solely a strategic element within companies that are rapidly becoming multi-utility and international. Second, non-economic uses and functions of water then have to be regulated by governmental institutions that often face serious opposition, conflict or other constraints in the face of powerful private agencies. Moreover, it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to integrate water policies within a wider urban, social, or economic policy involving cross-subsidization, alternative uses of water, or a socially stratified policy. Third, this shift inevitably entails a change in the geometry of social power. Private actors and companies become much more powerful voices in strategic water-related deci- sions, at the expense of other civil society organizations or of the state. Fourth, while the water cycle operates along temporal rhythms that are part of the larger environmental system, it is nevertheless increasingly forced to operate under the standard discounting periods of corporate strategists and of eco- nomic cycles. Fifth, the privatized nature of crucial parts of the water cycle diminishes the transparency of decision-making procedures and limits access to data and information that could permit other social groups to acquire the relevant information on which to base views, decisions, and options. Finally, water production and distribution becomes incorporated into an increasingly global economy in which investment flows, financial capital markets, and

³ However, we cannot dismiss the existence of powerful forces that oppose the privatizing agenda or

the internal contradictions of the privatizing model, which has often ended in failure in many cases around the world (Savedoff and Spiller 1999; Hardoy and Schusterman 1999; Bond 1997).

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investment decisions shape the contours within which the urban water economy operates. In sum, the shift from public good to private commodity alters the choreography of power through which the urban socio-hydrological cycle is organized (Kallis and Coccossis 2001).

2.3.2 The demand-supply-investment trialectic in a ‘competitive’ context

Within a context of commodification and demands for privatization, the tradi- tional state-led way of managing the triad of demand-supply-investment deci- sions is fundamentally transformed. If the profit motive, either for public or private companies, becomes the yardstick against which performance is mea- sured and the price signal a key instrument in regulating the demand/supply nexus, the contradictions between these moments in the economic process take

a rather different turn. Investment is continually required to extend, replace,

and update water supply networks. However, expanding demand in order to raise the necessary finance is seriously discouraged for environmental reasons, thus requiring more and more complicated equations on the balance sheets of water supply companies. With a given demand structure and the necessity of further investment, profitability (and hence the sustainability of market-led water companies) can only be maintained either via productivity increases (which are generally capital and technology intensive and almost invariably lead to a rising organic composition of capital) and/or price increases. When network expansion is required as in the case of most cities in the developing world, and usually in the poorer areas of the city, the substantial investment required hits the limited and often problematic cost recovery potential from investments in low-income areas. While price rises are possible (and likely), it remains politically sensitive and might lead to socially perverse effects. For example, immediately after privatization in the UK, the water price increased significantly. Many non-paying households were cut off (a practice later banned by the government), while companies and their shareholders gained considerable profits. In the second round of price-setting in 1999 (and after the government introduced a windfall tax on what were considered to be the excessive profits of the privatized utilities), price increases were more modest, immediately resulting in a major reduction of the labour force in the water industry and calls for a partial re-collectivization of the water infrastructure. In a context of increasing demand and expansion of either total or per capita demand, the volume of profits can be maintained by means of an expansion of

supply. In this context, it is interesting to note that the ‘productivist’ logic of water supply companies continues unabated. Furthermore, given the long- term and capital-intensive nature of investments in water infrastructure, there

is a rather weak incentive to engage in major long-term and capital-intensive

investment programmes. Put simply, there is a clear disincentive to invest in activities which are not directly profitable, such as leakage control and the

Circulating Water, Circulating Power 43

expansion of the network, in contrast to productivity enhancing investments. Finally, in the context of geographically limited supply and demand in which most companies operate, while simultaneously being exposed to a rapidly internationalizing competitive environment, there is a tendency for privatized water companies to internationalize activities, either by taking over privatized water businesses elsewhere or by means of mergers, acquisitions, and/or diversification into other sectors (see Hall 1999). In addition, the traditional state-led way of managing the triad of demand-supply-investment decisions becomes fundamentally transformed (see also below). If the profit motive, either for public or private companies, becomes the yardstick against which performance is measured and the price signal a key instrument in regulating the demand/supply nexus, the contradic- tions between these moments in the economic process take a rather different turn. In addition, new forms of governmental regulation parallel these shifts in the economic organization of water supply. This is the theme we shall turn to next.

2.3.3 A new regulatory order?

De-, re-, or non-regulation

The tendency towards commodification and privatization changes the regula- tory context in important ways. While moves towards commodification and privatization are legitimated on the basis of considerations of increased com- petitiveness, higher productivity, lower prices, and drastic cutbacks of regula- tory red tape, there has been a tendency to equate these shifts in the economic forms of organization with deregulation. However, evidence from the water sector suggests exactly the opposite. Particularly in the case of the UK, for example, the establishment of new semi-public institutions accompanied the privatization of the water utilities in 1989, most notably the economic regula- tory body OFWAT (Office of the Water Regulator). Although the main function of OFWAT is the protection of the consumer by means of regulating price-setting and investment, this process proved to be full of tensions and con- flict, not least as a result of a great and increasing diversity between water com- panies, uncertainties about available data, and the intricacies of the regulatory game. As Bakker (1999; 2001) has pointed out, the regulatory game that started with the privatization (and ostensibly deregulation) of the water industry unleashed a certain regulatory creep, which has developed into a top-heavy institutional regulatory body. Given the territorial monopoly character of the privatized water companies, all sorts of regulatory procedures, such as invest- ment target-setting, pricing, environmental standards, abstraction and leakage standards, quality assurance, and the like, have been implemented. Rather than deregulating the water sector, privatization has resulted in a profound re- regulation of the water market and in a considerable quasi-governmental regulatory structure (Castro, Swyngedouw, and Kaïka 2003). In the process,

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the set of social actors involved in the institutional and regulatory framework of the water sector has been significantly altered, with a new geometry of social power evolving as a consequence. This new choreography of institutional and regulatory organization is what we shall turn to next.

The re-scaling of the governance of water: from water government to water governance

The host of new institutional or regulatory bodies that have been set up have considerable decision-making powers, but operate in a shady political arena with little accountability and only limited forms of democratic control (Guy, Graham, and Marvin 1996). These institutional changes have been invariably described as part of wider shift from government to governance (Swyngedouw, Page, and Kaïka 2002). Whereas in the past, water management and water policy were directly or indirectly under the control of a particular governmen- tal scale, i.e. either at the national state and/or the local (municipal) level, in recent years there has been a massive proliferation of new water-related institu- tions, bodies, and actors that are involved in policy-making and strategic planning at a variety of geographical scales. The successive generations of water-related directives and regulations at the EU level, for example, or the tor- tuous process of implementing an integrated EU policy—in the form of the European Water Framework Directive—have resulted in growing powers of the Commission over water-related issues (Kaïka 2003b). In addition—as the UK case shows—privatization required setting up a series of new regulatory bodies (OFWAT in particular) and a redefinition of the powers and preroga- tives of existing regulatory organizations such as the National Rivers Author- ity, which became integrated into the newly created Environment Agency. For cities in the developing world, international scrutiny and conditions, often imposed by global institutions like the World Bank or IMF, have significantly altered the choreography of power between national and international scales of governance. In addition, the negotiation, implementation, and follow-up of such arrangements are paralleled by a growing number of commissions, com- mittees, and institutions, often of a public–private character, that supplant the traditional public authorities (Swyngedouw, Page, and Kaïka 2002; Castro, Swyngedouw and Kaïka 2003). Finally, privatization itself of course results in much greater power and autonomy for the companies themselves, particularly in terms of strategic and other decision-making. Privatization de facto means taking away some control from the public sector and transferring it to the private sector. This not only changes decision-making procedures and strategic developments, but also affects less tangible elements such as access to information and data. The combined outcome of the above has been a more or less significant reconfiguration of the scales of water governance. As Bob Jessop (1994) has

Circulating Water, Circulating Power 45

pointed out for other domains of public life, the national scale has been rede- fined (and partially hollowed out) in terms of its political power, while supra- national and sub-national institutions and forms of governance have become more important. Privatization, in turn, has led to the externalization of a series of command and control functions. The result is a new ‘gestalt’ of governance, characterized by a multi-scaled articulation of institutions and actors with varying degrees of power and authority, and in which traditional channels of democratic accountability are cut, curtailed, or redefined. This proliferation of ‘governing bodies’ at a variety of geographical scales has diminished the transparency of the decision-making process and renders it more difficult to disentangle and articulate the power geometries that shape decision-making outcomes. In practice, it can be argued that the transition from government to governance has implied—despite the multiplication of actors and institutions involved in water management—the transfer of key economic and political powers to the private component of the governance complex. This has not, however, happened in a social vacuum, but rather has fuelled a constellation of social and political conflicts, not least because of the consequences of an increasingly private-oriented governance model for the sustainability of socio-environmental systems. The proliferation of regulatory bodies and systems of governance associated with the hydrosocial cycle at local, national, or international scales, has con- tributed to the emergence of a ‘thick’ regulatory structure, with ambiguously defined responsibilities and an imprecisely defined accountability. Different sets of actors are involved in the decision-making procedures depending on the geographical scale of organization or on the particular institutional embed- ding of the water companies. The choreography of such ‘stakeholder’ partici- pation is uneven and unequal and, in many instances, operates outside traditional political democratic channels. While some actors are well repre- sented in some settings, they are excluded from others; still others remain totally absent from the arenas of power where fundamental decisions are made.

2.3.4 Proliferating socio-spatial and socio-environmental water conflicts

The expanding scale of urban water operations as a result of either increasing per capita demand and/or a still growing urban population results in the need to continually expand the urban water footprint. In spite of attempts to manage demand, total production capacity continues to increase, resulting in either an effective growth of water extraction and/or growing pressures to expand water production capabilities. At the same time, alternative uses of the available water (ecological, recreational, industrial, or other) are encouraged, often in a context of extremely limited quantity or unreliable quality of avail- able resources. Although pressures differ from country to country and from

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city to city, they are real and have led to more or less serious conflicts or threaten to do so in the near future. Perhaps the most notorious example of this is Tel Aviv. The existing national supply system from which the city draws its water is stretched to capacity in years of limited rainfall, and saline intrusion means that some aquifer sources can no longer be used. The now defunct peace process with the Palestinians has resulted in a promise to divert more water to Gaza where more than a million people live on currently a very limited supply of circa 25 litres per person per day. The negotiations with Syria on the future of the Golan Heights (parts of which are in the drainage basin of Lake Galilee, the country’s most important water source), may also affect the total water balance of Israel. Negotiations are currently under way to buy and import water from Turkey, which has surplus water, partly as a result of the construc- tion of the Anatolia water project, which captures headwaters from the rivers watering the Kurdish region and other Middle Eastern countries. If this goes ahead, a regional socio-spatial condition, which is already precariously bal- anced, will extend its geopolitical reach and intensify a complex and conflict- ridden situation. In addition to these socio-environmental and spatial conflicts, the drive towards privatization has reopened the debate over the status of water. While general access to water at a very low or moderate price for the whole population was the received wisdom during the ‘Statist’ period, current practices aimed at running water services according to the market logic have reignited discussion about water accessibility. This is particularly acute in the developing world where growing numbers of urban dwellers are dependent on highly unreliable, unsafe, and costly systems of water haulage or delivery. The privatization of water businesses renders the prospect of expanding water services in large cities dependent on conditions of profitability. Needless to say, strategies of cherry- picking have been identified as private businesses seek out the most lucrative opportunities (Guy, Graham, and Marvin 1996; 1997). The twin tensions of increasing the demand for urban water and the mounting pressure to allocate water to other functions have proliferated socio-spatial tensions and conflicts over water abstraction, water allocation, and water use (Crespo 2002b). These conflicts can take a variety of forms, including growing social differentiation within the city in terms of water con- sumption (see Chapter 3), conflicts over urban versus agricultural, industrial, or ecological use, and conflicts between resource extraction areas and urban consumption areas (reflected in conflicts over new reservoirs or dam con- structions). In addition, the globalization of water companies signals a strat- egy in which local waters, turned into capital, are geographically reallocated to other places and cities. For example, London’s water company, itself part of a global German conglomerate (RWE), has taken over part of Jakarta’s water supply system. Invariably, the outcome of these struggles and conflicts is expressive of the uneven power relations that infuse the organization of the hydro-cycle.

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

47

2.3.5 The discourse of crisis: the contested politics of demand management

The discursive production of ‘scarcity’

The risk of dwindling water resources, coupled with rising or unfulfilled demand, has intensified the political and social debate about the ‘scarcity’ of water (Nevarez 1996). As Kaïka’s work has pointed out, this discursive build- up of a particular water narrative and ideology, which is particularly noticeable during conditions such as drought-related urban water crisis, serves specific political and economic objectives and policies (Kaïka 1999; 2003a). A climate of actual, pending, or imagined water crisis serves not only to instigate further investment in the expansion of the water-supply side (as in the case of Athens), but also fuels and underpins drives towards commodification. As the price signal is hailed as a prime mechanism to manage ‘scarcity’, the discursive construction of water as a ‘scarce’ good becomes an important part of a strategy of commodification, if not privatization (see Chapter 6). In this con- text, strange and often unholy political alliances are forged between free mar- keteers and parts of the environmental movement. The growing effectiveness of this movement in spreading the message of increasing (although socially constructed) water scarcity to the wider public can lead to greater willingness- to-pay, with a consequent acceptance of the market as the preferred (or indeed only) mechanism to allocate water resources. In addition, the discursive repre- sentation of water as being an integral part of nature permits casting ‘nature’ into pole position to explain scarcity. In other words, nature is the principal ‘cause’ of water scarcity rather than the particular political economic configu- rations through which water becomes urbanized in highly selective and socially uneven ways, resulting in a serious ‘scarcity’ for the poor and powerless and abundant waters for the socio-economic and political elites.

The politics of the technological fix

The management of the urban hydrosocial cycle, particularly the management of demand, operates largely via a combination of campaigns aimed at raising public awareness about water savings on the one hand, and attempts at reduc- ing water consumption by means of a variety of technological fixes on the other. Generally the cost effectiveness of water-saving devices depends both on the price of the technology and the price of water. In a context of low water prices, water-saving devices are often not cost-effective. Although the aggre- gate effect on water savings is still disputed (most studies indicate a slowdown in the growth of water demand, but not a reversal of upward trends), the technological fix for water-related problems requires significant investment. Privatized water companies remain reluctant to invest in such technologies (given the cost implication), while public subsidization might be seen as a sub- vention to the private sector (in the case of a privatized water sector) or run

48

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

against the dominant ideology of full cost recovery (in the case of public com- panies). Despite the availability of a wide range of water-saving devices and technologies, uptake remains limited and is not likely to have a major impact in the near future. More importantly, the displacement effects are almost invari- ably completely ignored and not part of the environmental audit, yet it is abun- dantly clear that environment-friendly technologies applied in one sector might have adverse effects in terms of the environmental effects of their own production process. A total environmental audit would be required in order to assess the net environmental benefit derived from a technological fix. In addition, the master engineering narratives prioritize large-scale and cen- trally organized water supply systems at the expense of more decentralized and localized production and delivery systems, although the latter are generally the ones that serve the poorer residents of Third World cities. Given the marginal official interest in optimizing such systems, they remain either poorly organ- ized and/or controlled by informal actors operating in a grey zone and pro- viding services at highly inflated prices (see Chapter 7).

2.3.6 Globalizing H 2 O and uneven development

The commodification and privatization of H 2 O is increasingly embedded in processes of economic globalization. Whether publicly or privately owned, water businesses are expanding their operations geographically and becoming increasingly embedded in an international competitive process (Kazemir, Leinin, and Schaub 2002). In the case of privatized companies, furthermore, their capital structure is also becoming increasingly internationalized. For example, after the UK government opened the water sector to market compe- tition in December 1994, a frenzy of merger and takeover activity started to take place. Many UK water companies are actively acquiring water operations elsewhere in the world, while British companies have been subject to takeovers from foreign competitors. For instance, Thames Water (London’s water supply company) was acquired in September 2000 by the German multi-utility RWE. At a global scale, an accelerated process of concentration and consolidation is taking place that is rapidly leading to a fairly oligopolistic economic structure of water utility companies on a world scale. Regardless of the difficulties of regulating global companies (particularly with respect to environmental and social standards, investments, maintenance, and infrastructure upkeep), it raises the spectre of increasing geographical strategies around investments and about the spread of activities, the flow of water capital, and the portfolio of holdings. In addition, it opens up the possibility of strategic withdrawal of water companies from particular places and sites, permits strategic cherry- picking, and even the potential for bankruptcy or liquidation of activities. For a sensitive and vital sector like urban water supply, each of the above might potentially threaten urban sustainability conditions. In addition, it might lead to a situation in which the necessary provision of water for more problematic

Circulating Water, Circulating Power 49

(i.e. costly) areas of the city has to be undertaken by the public sector, while the private sector picks places that optimize corporate profitability. To the extent that water companies operate increasingly as private economic actors, they are also increasingly subject to standard market risks. While pro- viding a fundamental and essential service, the economic survival of water operations is not necessarily guaranteed. Takeovers, disinvestments, geogra- phical reallocation, bankruptcies, inefficient operations, and the like are of course endemic to a private market economy. In fact, this is exactly what mar- ket dynamics are supposed to do: weed out underperforming companies and reallocate economic resources from less to more profitable activities. This raises particular questions with respect to the long-term sustainability of market- based urban water supply systems. In the absence of strong incentives to enhance productivity or efficiency, and given the high cost and long time hori- zon of fixed capital investments in water infrastructure, private companies may fail to keep water systems running efficiently. This would, in the medium term, lead to a situation in which the State (at whatever level) has to once again become involved in the water sector in more direct ways. There is a tendency to leave the network/infrastructure part of urban water networks to the public sector, while private companies secure profitable management and operational activities. This entails an indirect subsidy of the private sector by the state and, in market terms, distorts the operation of the market. In a context in which the risk of water supply failure is too dramatic to contemplate, the state will have to remain (or become again) a key player in organizing water supply systems. This will become even more pronounced as environmental and sanitary stan- dards in urban areas continue to decline.

2.4 Conclusion: the urban water conundrum

One of the most striking features of urban life is the ubiquitous necessity for (metabolized) water of a certain quality and quantity to sustain urban life and its fabric. Moreover, this water circulates through an intricate centrally con- trolled system to every single location in the city. At the same time, cities are confronted with huge volumes of sewage water, which is not only a problem in terms of its physical characteristics but also presents a serious health threat. This waste has to be removed again from every urban location by means of a similarly centralized and extensive sewage network. Every form of urban life depends on water but is simultaneously threatened by it. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that in the practices of everyday city life, water is a crucial material and symbolic good, which is embedded in and engenders urban social conflicts and struggles over its use and control. The realm of urban water, particularly under conditions of exclusion and problematic access, is indeed highly contested terrain.

50

Circulating Water, Circulating Power

In short, the urbanization of water and the social, economic, and cultural processes associated with its domestication have brought access to and control of nature’s water squarely into the realm of class, gender, and cultural differen- tiation and struggle. The commodification of water, in turn, has incorporated the circulation of water directly into the sphere of money circulation. This makes access to water dependent on positions of social power, both economi- cally as well as in terms of gender and culture. Intricate power choreographies have characterized the organization and management of urban water systems over the twentieth century. At the beginning of the new century, we are again embarking on a major transformation of the political and economic landscape of water production and delivery, one that is replete with all manner of ten- sions and conflicts. Before we embark on excavating Guayaquil’s urbanization process through the lens of the political ecology of its own hydrosocial circula- tion process, we turn first to considering the water condition in the Latin American city in general, and in the Andean region in particular.

3

Water, Power, and the Andean City:

Situating Guayaquil

life for the poor in many Latin American cities [is] a risky proposition. They breathe polluted air, drink contaminated water, eat unsafe food, and live among the garbage. They are subjected to earthquakes, mudslides and floods from an early age and have limited access to health and education, no money and no work.

Anton 1993: 140–1

3.1 Water exclusion and the Latin American city

There is no aggregate shortage of water in Latin America. The Amazon’s out- put into the Atlantic Ocean is about 150,000 cubic metres per second and a whole host of smaller rivers—the Magdalena, Orinoco, San Francisco, Uruguay, and Usumacinta rivers, to name but a few—all carry more than 1,000 m³/sec of water into the ocean at their outlets. In contrast, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and São Paulo, the three largest cities in Latin America, consume around 50 to 80 m³/second, clearly a very small amount when compared to total available regional water resources (Anton 1993: 163). However, Mexico City is situated in an extremely water-scarce area, and other cities such as São Paulo, Brasilia, Guatemala City, Quito, and Bogota are located far from plen- tiful sources of water. Elsewhere, though, large cities and abundant water sources are in close proximity, yet large parts of their population still suffer from a lack of clean, cheap, and convenient water, a situation of scarcity in the midst of abundance. This chapter will examine the problems faced by the urban poor in Latin America in accessing potable water, and will examine the problems associated with its delivery.

3.1.1 The size and nature of the problem

Although it contains some very arid areas such as the Atacama Desert, Latin America is a humid region. Until recently, water was regarded as an abundant resource, and justifiably so: Latin America’s annual precipitation is 60% above

52

Situating Guayaquil

Table 3.1. Average municipal water consumption in Latin American cities

City

Water consumption (litres per capita per day)

Source: Anton

Source: World Bank

Buenos Aires Havana Maracaibo Córdoba Guayaquil San José Monterrey Mexico City Lima-Callao Curitiba Medellín Guadalajara Bogotá Santiago Caracas Montevideo Quito São Paulo Salvador Belo Horizonte Cali La Paz Rio de Janeiro Asunción Barranquilla Cochabamba

630

500

100

475

435

429

261

423

404

360–527

359

211

345

340

314

304

300–555

286

300–388

289

286–301

270–293

266

186

261

237

177

73

188–684

299

160–350

236

148

130 a

43

Sources: Anton (1993: 156); World Bank (1998: 278–9); a Crespo (2002a: 122).

the world average and the average annual run-off of 370,000 m³ is 30% of the world total (Biswas 1979: 16). A glance at water consumption levels in Latin American cities indicates no aggregate shortage of water. Table 3.1 suggests that average daily water consumption in Latin America’s big cities is compar- able with that of cities in the developed world, and significantly higher than is the case in African and some Asian cities. Given that the very minimum amount of water deemed necessary to sustain life has been estimated at 5 litres per capita per day (LCD) (World Bank 1976), and that under most circumstances 30/40 LCD is deemed sufficient for a rea- sonable level of personal and community health (Kirke and Arthur 1987: 125), even the city with the lowest consumption level would appear to have a plenti- ful supply of water. This impression is further reinforced when one considers

Situating Guayaquil

53

that it has been calculated (Kalbermatten 1980) that neither personal hygiene nor public health requires water for domestic consumption to exceed 100 LCD. With this quantity of water, the full health benefits of a reliable water supply can be enjoyed and a water-borne sewerage system can be operated. Further- more, domestic consumption beyond 100 LCD is thought to have little addi- tional benefit to human health or environmental well-being. The inevitable conclusion is that, in all the above-mentioned Latin American cities, there is more than enough water to provide every member of the population with sat- isfactory water and sewerage systems. Whereas in 1980 just over 200 million urban dwellers worldwide were deprived of water supply services, by the year 2000 this number had more than doubled to 450 million. For urban sanitation services the figures are respectively 295 million and 720 million (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, various years). About a billion people suffer from chronic water shortages. The consequences of deficiencies in safe water supply for health and the environment are far more critical in densely populated urban areas than in rural conditions where there is often some reliable source of water available and waste is diluted more easily. The physical expansion of Latin American cities during the past few decades required a parallel expansion of urban services. However, the sharpening of social and economic inequalities, combined with the institutional contradic- tions of water utilities (see Chapter 6), resulted in a spatial segregation process related to the resurgence of slums and marginal settlements in suburban areas of the city. Poor residents became systematically excluded from many of the basic services, including access to piped potable water. In the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires (El Gran Buenos Aires), for example, the proportion of people without water services rose from 6% in 1947 (out of 4.7 million inhabi- tants) to 24% in 1960 (6.7 million) and to 36% in 1987 (c.10 million) (Brustein 1991: 96; 1990: 190). As Table 3.2 suggests, up to 70% of the urban population in Latin America does not have proper sewage systems available, while up to a half (and sometimes more) lack relatively easy access to potable water (in the house, yard, or neighbourhood). Between 1980 and 1986, the urban popula- tion in Latin America grew from 224.1 to 275.1 million (from 65% to 69% of the total population), while the number of city dwellers deprived of easy access to potable water rose from 37.8 to 45.6 million (Saenz 1988: 2–3). Table 3.3 summarizes urban water access for selected cities in Latin America. The exclusion of large segments of the urban poor from direct access to water expresses and unleashes a social, political, and economic struggle within the urban arena for control over and access to water. In general, there is no alternative source of potable water, so this has to be brought to settlements by means other than pipes. In many cases, private water vendors, who hold a de facto monopolistic control over this precious commodity, truck water in. In other cases, standpipes, wells, and/or long haulage journeys (customarily by women and children) provide some sort of access. The exclusionary practices

54

Situating Guayaquil

Table 3.2. Urban populations with access to water supply and sewerage in Andean and selected Latin American countries (percentages)

Country

Sewerage connections

 

Potable water

 

1987

d

1990 c

2000 c

1988 d

1990 c

1996 e

2000 c

Bolivia

23

73

86

42

91

na

93

Colombia

61

96

96

92

95

88

98

Ecuador

36

na

70

58

na

82

81

Peru

55

77

79

52

84

na

87

Venezuela

60

na

71

90

na

na

88

Mexico

64.5 a

na

na

81.5 a

92

91

94

Argentina

79

b

na

85

70 b

na

71

85

Paraguay

88

b

96

94

82 b

85

70

95

Sources: a Coplain (1988: 9); b World Bank (1987); c UNEP (2002) and UNCHS (2001); d Vásconez (1991: 51); e World Bank (2000).

Table 3.3. Percentage of houses with indoor piped water and sewerage connections, selected Latin American cities

City

Source

Year of

Percentage

Percentage

 

data

water

sewerage

Cochabamba, Bolivia

a

1997

80.7

b

1993

33

20

d

2000

57

Barranquilia, Colombia Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Managua, Nicaragua Panama, Panama Guatemala City, Guatemala Recife, Brazil San Salvador, El Salvador La Paz, Bolivia Lima, Peru Asuncion, Paraguay Guayaquil, Ecuador

a

1993

93.4

a

1993

86.8

a

1998

58.4

a

1990

81.7

b

1993

52

b

1993

79

38

b

1993

86

80

b

1993

55

58

b

1993

70

69

b

1993

58

10

c

1990

64.0

55.2

 

b

1993

80

55

Sources: (a) UNCHS (2001: 323); (b) World Bank (1998: 278–9); (c) INEC, Census 1990; (d) Crespo

(2002a).

around urban water can be illustrated by the role of urban water vendors and the economic power they command by virtue of their power over a vital com- modity. Monopoly rents (see Harvey 1974) can be extracted and appropriated through the mobilization of a geographically ‘located’resource, which needs to be spatially ‘relocated’. Their command over the spatial circulation of water

Situating Guayaquil

Table 3.4. Relationships between proportion of water consumed and percentage of households, and total water production per capita in selected Latin American cities

55

City

Percentage of

Percentage of water received

Water produced (litres per capita per day)

population

Mexico City a

3

60

386.2

50

3

Guayaquil b

40

3

220.0

Lima c

43

88

368

32

10.1

25

1.9

Barranquilla d

30

5

Santiago e

19

38

226

19.4

9.1

Cochabamba f

27

50

Sources: a Illich (1986: 1); b Field work; c Espinoza (1988: 4); d Bernal (1991: 153–4); e Calculated on the basis of Icaza and Rodriguez (1988: 62); f Crespo (2002a: 121).

permits not only rapid money accumulation, but also gives the ‘water specula- tors’a powerful position in the political economy of the city as urban life would be seriously, if not terminally, disturbed if water distribution were to come to a halt (see Chapter 7). The problem, therefore, is not one of absolute scarcity but one of unfair dis- tribution. Indeed, the failings of the water supply system to bring water to urban residents and their consequent dependence on alternative supply sys- tems raises the question of the socio-spatial distribution of urban water or, in other words, of who gets what share of the available water. Even for those who are connected to the urban network, there is significant difference in both the quantity and the quality of water that can be accessed. Water pressure in the network is spatially often very uneven and becomes lower with increased dis- tance from the central reservoirs. This leads to a condition of very irregular water supply, usually limited to just a few hours daily. Moreover, communities with low supply are usually found in poorer suburban settlements (Brustein 1988b). As the pipes are empty and air-filled during long periods of time, the danger for both bacteriological and physical (for example, corrosion) contam- ination increases and, consequently, the water quality is significantly lower and often becomes unsafe to drink. In addition, there is a clear socio-spatial segregation in terms of use of water. Rosenfeld (1991: 187) maintains that in the case of Santiago de Chile (which nevertheless has a respectable 97.5% coverage), low-income residents consume on average 100 litres of water per day per capita, while high-income neigh- bourhoods show a daily per capita consumption of up to 800 litres. Table 3.4 shows the inequality in water distribution for a number of cities for which those

56

Situating Guayaquil

data are available, clearly indicating that a tiny minority of urban residents consume the bulk of available potable water, while many have to make do with just a fraction of this. In Guayaquil, 60% of the population consumes 97% of the produced potable water, whereas the other 40% has to make do with 3% of the available supply (Swyngedouw 1994). For those dependent on ‘tanqueros’, average daily consumption can accurately be estimated at 20 LCD. In Mexico City, 3% of the population receives 60% of the water, whilst 50% receives just 3% (Illich 1986:

1); in Lima, 43% consume 88% of the water (Espinoza and Oliden 1988: 4); while in Barranquilla 30% have to survive on 5% of the water (Bernal 1991:

153–4). Even in Santiago, one of the few Latin American cities which services over 95% of the residents with piped potable water, there is still a significant disparity: the top 19% of the population receives 38% of the water (Icaza and Rodriguez 1988: 62). On a world scale, it is estimated (Christmas and De Roy 1991) that 1–2 bil- lion people do not have access to a safe and reliable water supply. In short, water provision has increased living standards for those who have benefited, but around 20% of the human population has suffered from the exclusionary implications of water supply management approaches and still has no satisfac- tory access.

3.1.2 The consequences of insufficient water supplies for Latin America’s urban poor

A deficient water supply can affect human health in a number of ways, causing

diseases that are water-borne, water-washed, water-based, or water-related. Water-borne diseases are infectious diseases spread through water supply sys- tems, water-washed diseases are caused by a lack of personal hygiene, aquatic invertebrate animals transmit water-based diseases, and insects dependent on water spread water-related diseases. The 1990s have seen cholera epidemics— beginning in Peru, where 200,000 cases were reported (Anton 1993: 162)—and spreading to neighbouring Andean countries, including Ecuador. Cholera is now rife in Amazonia, and has spread north to Mexico and south to Argentina. Yet the few cities with adequate water supply and sewerage systems serving vir- tually 100% of their population, such as Montevideo, have been little affected. Clearly, a well-functioning and comprehensive water supply and sewerage system is essential if a city is to resist the onset of not only cholera but also amoebiasis, diarrhoea, typhus, and hepatitis.

Quite apart from the obvious threat to human health posed by the lack of piped, potable water in many poorer neighbourhoods in Latin American cities, the networks of water pipes are often themselves the source of contamination. When, due to overconsumption in central districts, repairs, breakdowns, or

insufficient input, pressure drops in sections of the pipes, supply to consumers

is interrupted. It is an indication of the way in which socio-political interest

Situating Guayaquil

57

groups have forged the delivery of natural resources to the human population that when this occurs, it is almost always the more peripheral, poorer neigh- bourhoods that receive the limited supply. Networks are often of a herringbone structure radiating from the city centre or reservoirs, so that while city centre fountains present an image of plenty, even the few urban poor who are con- nected to the system receive water for only a few hours each day. While this compounds the perilous position of the urban poor in relation to health, the danger of exposure to disease is further enhanced when pressure in the pipes becomes very low or even negative. Air fills the pipes, and contaminated water from the soil surrounding the pipes can often be drawn in, introducing another source of contamination. In São Paulo, this is a particular problem, as water is provided on a by-turns system, where each part of the city receives water for a certain number of hours, and then has no water for another fixed length of time. With the pipelines routinely drying up several times a week, the scope for contamination is alarming (Jacobi 1995: 13). However, protection from ill health is far from the only advantage afforded by access to potable water. Where the piped water network does not service neighbourhoods, the process of obtaining water can consume large amounts of time and energy. Heavy containers may have to be carried from trucks, wells, or streams; people may have to queue for water; and precious fuel may be used for boiling the water. In short, water can become one’s master rather than one’s slave. Children can be forced to miss school and women may be unable to enter employment because of the need to stay at home to await irregular deliveries. Thus:

The provision of reliable, safe and convenient sources of potable water will not only reduce mortality and morbidity but will also release those now engaged in collecting water for more useful tasks. (Kirke and Arthur 1987: 123)

When considering the ways in which deficient water supplies impact upon the urban poor, it is important to note that the effects are far from gender-neutral. Instead the ‘feminization of poverty’(Jordan and Wagner 1993) has become an acute reality. Women in Latin America are rarely consulted about their water supply needs by overwhelmingly male-dominated water supply institutions, despite the fact that projects, which have fully involved women, have been shown to bring significant health and lifestyle benefits and have been better maintained. Women are disproportionately affected by water supply deficiencies as they are invariably the primary procurers and users of water and are also given the sole responsibility for waste management (hence putting them at a higher risk of exposure to disease). They are also increasingly accounting for a significant proportion of family wage income, so that time lost waiting or queuing for water inhibits their ability to provide for their families. Yet community decision-making and planning processes operate exclusionary practices towards women. If women were involved, Jordan and Wagner (1993) argue,

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Situating Guayaquil

then projects would be more successful as women have a vested interest in their success. Moreover participation might also heighten women’s self-awareness, respect, and recognition as valued members of the community. Thus far, it appears that while poor provision of water has adversely affected women’s lives, women’s association with water procurement has adversely affected water provision. Male-dominated institutions have given priority to solving male- dominated problems, of which water supply is not seen to be one. Yet this is clearly a myopic approach: although women may be the procurers and dis- posers of water, water quantity and quality are fundamental to the physical and economic well-being of the entire community. Where proper water and sanitation are provided, economic activity can increase as a result of the extra time available to women, which can only benefit society at large. For example, when piped water was introduced to Panama City, the production of goods by women doubled almost overnight (UNCHS 1985).

3.1.3 Managing the supply of water in Latin American cities

Demands for water in Latin American cities have mushroomed since the 1950s (Postel 1992) as a result of the spatial expansion of such cities, rapidly rising populations, and the development of industry. Globally, industry is now responsible for around 25% of all water use, and although industries can dra- matically reduce consumption by recycling and reusing water, such practices have yet to be adopted in Latin America (Shiklomanov 1990). Demand has also been further boosted by the abundance and low cost of supplies for the most central and wealthiest neighbourhoods of cities, where horticultural and ornamental water use is common. Very often, citywide levels of demand cannot be met by supply, not because of any aggregate water shortage, but because of the massive overconsumption by the commercial sector and by the wealthiest residential areas. In order to deliver better water to more people, a change of approach is needed. The capital-intensive gargantuan projects aimed at creating ever greater supply to match ever increasing demand should be de-prioritized, and instead of raping ever greater swathes of nature in this way, we should look within cities to find more water. Quite simply, we should learn to ‘do more with less’ (Postel 1992). Postel calculates that Latin American cities could cut their water use by around 33% without sacrificing economic output or quality of life. Moreover, investments in water efficiency, recycling and reuse schemes have been found to yield more water per dollar than conventional projects. Despite this, institu- tions and policies in Latin American cities hinder such developments at pre- sent. Some officials and all water vendors have an interest in maintaining the status quo. Moreover, the need to find practical solutions to the water problem is often deemed less important than the need to be seen to be doing something, resulting in a bias towards grand projects. A mayor is more likely to be remem- bered and re-elected for building a new pumping station or aqueduct than for

Situating Guayaquil

59

supplying low-volume lavatory tanks. In summary, the problems of supplying water to Latin American cities which have developed since the 1950s have had very little to do with absolute scarcity, and have instead been caused by a lack of properly trained professionals, by political influence on technical decisions, by excessive bureaucracy in management and supply institutions, and by cor- ruption in administrative and political systems (Biswas and Kindler 1989). Although the paucity of water provision in poorer neighbourhoods is in- extricably linked to the socio-political manipulation of nature in the city, it should be conceded that many Latin American city slums are located in mar- ginal areas, where water supply systems have to overcome severe engineering problems. Shanty settlements on steep slopes above cities are often above the level of storage reservoirs, thus requiring expensive pumping of water to pro- vide piped water. Many other slums are located on flood plains where the installation of water mains and drainage is again difficult and costly. Yet, these invasion settlements often take place on marginal low-rent yielding lands and, in the case of Guayaquil, were actually organized by a clientelist patronage system. In turn, the marginal conditions of the land lead to excessive costs when public or collective services need to be constructed. However, it is also clear that when deciding which areas are to benefit from a supply of water, insti- tutions tend to favour the most affluent or politically influential neighbour- hoods. Such areas may not only have the political power to act against people or institutions who make decisions which are not in their interest, but will also be more vocal, better funded and better trained in the ways and means of lobbying and influencing decision-makers. Furthermore, institutions perceive that middle- and higher-income groups are likely to be much more reliable at paying their bills, despite the fact that poorer households without connections pay far higher bills for non-potable water than they would for the same volume of piped water, and that, with the availability of piped water, opportunities to increase income would also expand. One factor hindering large-scale development of water supply systems in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s was the shortage of capital. Before 1982, although there was never a plentiful supply of capital, credit could be obtained from funding agencies, Western banks, or other financial institutions. How- ever, since the debt crisis became apparent in the 1980s, the supply of capital and consequently of potable water for up to 50 million inhabitants of Latin American cities has dried up. Across Latin America, massive foreign debts were accumulated during the 1970s by the mainly military governments, as a result of unaccountable and corrupt regimes being encouraged to take out large loans by foreign banks. Thus, Brazil’s debt increased from US$10 billion to US$100 billion, and Mexico borrowed $100 million despite a ten-fold increase in its petroleum income. Virtually every other Latin American country similarly obtained massive levels of borrowed capital. The price of these debts is now being paid for by the urban poor in two ways: in the high tariffs they are forced to pay for tanker water as a result of the failure of previous regimes to

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Situating Guayaquil

invest borrowed capital productively in water supply schemes; and in the economic austerity forced upon them by World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programmes. The structural adjustment programmes imposed upon Latin American gov- ernments are now compounding this situation. In order to reduce fiscal deficits, the IMF insists upon smaller, self-financing public services charging higher prices, abandoning subsidies, and implementing privatization schemes. Reduced expenditure results in even less maintenance being performed and even fewer new projects being considered, thus perpetuating the exclusion of the poor from potable water resources. Furthermore, even where poorer neigh- bourhoods do have access to water connections, price increases have often put the cost of water beyond the means of the urban poor, leaving them dependent upon the standpipes and water vendors once more. It has already been noted that the water supply problem is not one of absolute scarcity but rather one of ‘produced’ scarcity, and it is therefore worthwhile considering who manages water and in what ways it is misman- aged. In Latin America, water provision has traditionally been an area of public intervention, based upon the legal classification of water as public or government property. Most frequently, though, the potential for a well- coordinated water provision strategy that such public ownership might seem to offer is not realized due to the fragmentation of responsibility for water between numerous different public institutions. In Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Venezuela a plethora of institutions were involved but none took overall responsibility (Biswas 1979: 30). In Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, and Peru there are also numerous institutions but one institution has a coordinating role and takes ultimate responsibility. Only in four countries—Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, and Mexico—is water management centralized in a single institu- tion. In recent years, water privatization programmes, like that in Buenos Aires or the failed attempt in Cochabamba in Colombia, have gained currency and have been portrayed as the panacea to solve both the financial crisis of public supply systems and improving the service. While the former objective might be achieved, there is little evidence that service provision and coverage has improved significantly. Although giving one institution control over and responsibility for water should encourage wiser investment and strategic planning, it by no means ensures it. Institutions in Latin America have frequently been characterized by inefficiency, political interference, and excessive bureaucracy, all of which have reduced their effectiveness. Water company funds have, for example, often been diverted into other sectors of government, so that revenues—where they are accrued—are rarely used to improve the network. Water companies have also often been used as sources of employment for supporters of the political elite. Most such appointments are administrative and command significant salaries, so that much needed funds are spent increasingly on salary payments.

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Moreover, the ensuing bureaucracy can be self-perpetuating. New employees expand their positions by creating new rules and procedures in order to protect their own jobs, and in so doing gradually create further posts. The casualty, as ever, is the budget for investment in infrastructure. Fundamentally, however, the institutions of water management do not only suffer from problems of inefficiency, corruption, bureaucracy, and divided responsibility: even when funds are available for investment they are used in highly inappropriate ways. Almost invariably, funds are still pumped into improving and expanding large-scale water distribution systems, despite the fact that they increasingly provide more water for those who already have it without significantly expanding overall coverage. Encouraging greater econ- omy in water use and extending provision to unserviced areas are seen as sec- ondary priorities, despite the fact that they are normally more cost-effective. Moreover, investment in additional capacity without extensions to the system invariably leads to increased consumption among middle- and upper-income groups. Given that water always becomes more expensive to provide as the amount provided increases, increasing consumption above existing levels for the middle and upper classes has negative financial consequences for the water companies, without benefiting those in need in any way. In fact, water compa- nies can find themselves caught in a spiral of ever increasing investment when providing water to city centres and wealthier districts, which has to be main- tained to placate the politically vocal. Once water supply has been increased, additional piped sewerage is required. As households become more accus- tomed to in-house water and install baths, showers, irrigation systems, and multiple taps, consumption increases still further. As a result of this, mains pressure drops and householders complain. Further investment is then demanded, and as a result of this extra water, the cycle begins again. Just as those who have power control the water, and those who have water manipulate those who have power, those who have no power have no water. Crucial to any analysis of water supply and demand is an understanding that water demand depends very much upon availability. Where water is made widely available at low prices (as it is in most Latin American city centres and wealthier residential districts), consumption practices are highly wasteful. Awareness of the true value of water is minimal, water-saving technology is scarce, and pricing policies do not promote conservation. In Buenos Aires, for example, a combination of plentiful supply from the Rio de la Plata and a lack of metering have brought about extremely high consumption patterns. Water is often supplied at minimal cost—even below cost price when capital invest- ments, maintenance, and other expenses are taken into account—in well- intentioned yet unsuccessful attempts to ensure that water prices do not put water beyond the means of the poorest. The actual results of this policy are that wealthier residents take access to large volumes of water at low cost for granted, and use so much artificially cheap water that the poorer, peripheral areas which do have connections to the piped network suffer minimal or no

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pressure and the districts without connections see funds which could be spent on supplying them wasted on subsidizing garden sprinklers and fountains for the wealthy. In Lima for example, ‘leisure lakes’ are fed by the municipal La Atarjea system, but more than 300,000 households have no service whatsoever (Anton 1993: 155). Thus setting artificially low tariffs can be seen to be a pricing policy that has failed to benefit those in most need, and has in fact worked to their detriment. Clearly, a more efficient tariff structure is urgently needed if water agencies are to use their own resources properly and are to be able to extend their network. Such a structure should aim to provide low-cost water for essential domestic use but to charge high tariffs for any additional water use. For example, cheap water could be supplied up to a volume of 100 LCD, with additional water available at rapidly increasing tariffs. Such a system would require the existence and satisfactory operation of water meters, but would be far superior to the current situation in many Latin American cities where water use is charged at a flat rate or is even charged at decreasing unit costs with increasing consump- tion. There is no financial, engineering, or natural justification for such a tariff system: it is indeed a vivid illustration of the way in which the management of water supply is more a process of political management and manipulation than natural resource provision. The above provides the background against which the political ecology of water urbanization in Guayaquil is framed. In the next section, we shall turn to presenting the water condition in the city. The subsequent chapters, then, will delve into the excavation of the political ecological processes through which the urbanization of water in Guayaquil unfolded.

3.2 Exclusionary water practices in Guayaquil

3.2.1 The geography of water exclusion

Guayaquil is the largest and economically most powerful city in Ecuador. Situated on the Pacific shore of the country’s humid lowlands, it suffers from immense water problems. Billions of litres of water pass through the city centre every day as the Rivers Daule and Babahoyo join to form the Guayas stream, while almost half of its residents do not have access to reliable sources of potable water and the whole city suffers from chronic water shortages. While Quito is Ecuador’s political centre and capital city, Guayaquil is the country’s hustling and bustling port city, whose location is shown in Figure 3.1. Together with Duran, located on the other side of the Guayas River, Guayaquil’s metropolitan area today includes approximately 2 million inhabitants. About 600,000 of these live in unregulated or poorly regulated settlements that grew out of invasions of landless rural workers, who started to migrate to the city from the 1950s onwards.

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Situating Guayaquil 63 Fig. 3.1. The location of Guayaquil in Ecuador. The growth of metropolitan Guayaquil

Fig. 3.1. The location of Guayaquil in Ecuador.

The growth of metropolitan Guayaquil ran increasingly ahead of the provi- sion of water services. As the political-ecological transformations of the coun- tryside disintegrated rural society and caused accelerating rural to urban migration, the state as the key locus for the provision of collective consumption equipment failed to appropriate the necessary rents from the ecological conquest of the urban hinterland to assure a parallel expansion of urban services (see Chapters 4 and 5). Table 3.5 summarizes the recent evolution of domesticated water in Ecuador, Quito, and Guayaquil. While the national average showed signs of improvement over the 1974–90 period, the situation in Guayaquil deteriorated significantly, both in relative terms and in absolute numbers. The rate of coverage fell by 9%, while the absolute and official number of city dwellers lacking access to piped water grew from 222,269 to 596,013, almost tripling in less than 20 years. Of the 169 cantonal capitals in the country, 144 enjoy a better service than Guayaquil and 114 do better than Quito.

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Table 3.5. Potable water and sewerage services in Quito, Guayaquil, and Ecuador, 1974–1990 (percentage of dwellings connected)

 

Quito

Guayaquil

 

Ecuador

 

%

deficit

Potable water

1974

85

73

222,269

43.7

1982

85

65

419,770

51.8

1990

83.3

64

596,013

57.1

Sewerage

1974

89

82

28.1

1982

52

33.6

1990

79.8

55.2

39.5

Sources: INEC, Census 1974; 1982; 1990.

Table 3.6. Water accessibility and water provision in the metropolitan area of Guayaquil (City of Guayaquil plus Duran), 1990

 

Houses

%

Inhabitants

%



349,176

100

1,643,207

100

In-house

163,183

47

743,978

45

Outdoor

43,696

13

202,476

12

Neighbourhood

18,887

5

92,129

6

No-water

123,369

35

604,624

37

Public network

219,439

63

1,007,574

61

Private vendor

121,257

35

593,731

36

Well

4,315

1

21,315

1

River

1,410

0

7,031

0

Other

2,755

1

13,556

1

Sewerage

184,998

53

834,199

51

Collected waste

192,811

55

878,314

53

Source: INEC, Census 1990.

The 1990 census data for Guayaquil presented in Table 3.6 give further details of water accessibility and the means of water provision in the city. Only 45% of the urban residents enjoy the luxury of fully domesticated water flow- ing through indoor plumbing. A further 18% have some form of access to the official public water network, whereas the remainder are dependent on other means to acquire their necessary supply of water. The overwhelming majority of those who are excluded from the engineered water supply system rely on

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65

Situating Guayaquil 65 Fig. 3.2. The city of Guayaquil and its main urban divisions. private water

Fig. 3.2. The city of Guayaquil and its main urban divisions.

private water vendors. The number of those dependent on these monopolized water speculators has grown spectacularly over the past 20 years, from about 200,000 in 1974 to almost 600,000 in 1990. However, most experts agree that, on the whole, the census data underestimate the real figures, particularly in the marginal peripheral settlements. According to these observers (see Scheers 1991), the actual population in 1990 was closer to 1.8 million, which would make the number of people dependent on private water sellers closer to 800,000 than to the tabulated figure. Other sources, therefore, claim that the rate of water coverage is significantly poorer than assumed. Arellano (1992), for example, maintains that the actual rate of water coverage fell from 76% in 1975 to 54% in 1991 and to as low as 50.3% in 1992. Figure 3.2 shows the location of the main urban areas of Guayaquil. Figure 3.3 details the geography of water exclusion. The settlements in the southern and northwestern peripheries are among the least serviced areas. In fact, there is a clear water gradient from the central parts of the city to the periphery. In

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Situating Guayaquil

¢ I ¢ VIAA DAULE ¢ I MAPASINGUE URDESA ¢ I ¢ SUBURBIO ¢ I
¢
I
¢
VIAA
DAULE
¢
I
MAPASINGUE
URDESA
¢
I
¢
SUBURBIO
¢
I
¢
¢
I
I

Fig. 3.3. Percentage of dwellings served by water lorries in Guayaquil, 1990.

Situating Guayaquil

67

the most recent settlements (land invasions of the last 20 years), the whole population is dependent on private water sellers, while the middle- and upper- class residential areas to the north of the city centre are fully serviced through the public water authority network. These data do indicate the socio-spatial unevenness in terms of access to nature’s water and suggest how the flow of water can indeed shed light on the mechanisms of socio-economic and politi- cal power that shape the urbanization process and give the city its highly con- tested, unequal, and oppressive characteristics. Figure 3.4 shows the water supply system of Guyaquil. The pumping station at ‘La Lolita’, 95 km from the city, was the sole water supply system for the city until 1950, although the connection with Guayaquil was severed in 1975 and at present it only services Duran and the villages along the pipeline. In 1950, a pumping and treatment station was built 25 km upstream from Guayaquil on the Guayas River. This station now has a theoretical annual capacity of 1.5 million m³ and mains pump the water to the city centre and to Salinas, a resort town 140 km from Guayaquil. Centrally located reservoirs (around which—not surprisingly—the middle- and upper-class residential areas are located) are then the nodal points from which secondary mains and pipes service the residential and central commercial areas along the model of a classical herringbone structure. But network connections do not guarantee a steady supply of water. The technological structure of the system ensures high pressure and good quality close to the urban reservoirs, whilst further away pressure falls rapidly and supply is limited to a few hours a day. In fact, social inequality and water exclu- sion is cemented into the technological engineering system itself. The suburban areas, deprived of water connections or faced with chronic supply shortages, are dependent on private water sellers (tanqueros) for their essential supply of water. The latter procure their water from the public water company at three filling stations, located along the mains that bring the bulk water to the city (see Chapter 7). The northern sector of the city consumes on average 307 LCD, while the southern sector has to make do with only 43 litres (see Table 3.7). The northern part has an around-the-clock supply, while the southern sector receives water of dubious quality for only 4 hours a day. Moreover, the techni- cal efficiency of the system is extremely low. In the areas with high pressure, more than 50% of the water is lost through leakages and as a result of insuffi- cient accounting systems. Of course, the unreliable supply in the central and southern parts of the city also leads to a social stratification of water use. While average per capita consumption is well over 300 LCD, it is only 43 LCD in the peripheral areas of the water system. This is still double the volume consumed by those who are dependent on water vendors. Nevertheless, the average production and supply capacity of the existing facilities allow for a daily per capita consumption of 220 litres. Compared with an international standard of 150 LCD, Guayaquil would be in a position to provide every citizen with a sufficient supply of water. The key issue, therefore,

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Situating Guayaquil

68 Situating Guayaquil Fig. 3.4. The water supply system in Guayaquil. is one of distribution of

Fig. 3.4. The water supply system in Guayaquil.

is one of distribution of available capacity rather than an issue of absolute scarcity. The water scarcity experienced in some sectors of the city and among some of its residents is socio-politically constructed rather than produced by environmental or production constraints. In addition, supply problems within

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69

Table 3.7. Geographical distribution of water supply and consumption through the official network, 1990

Sector

North

Centre

South

Number of inhabitants Water supplied (m 3 litres/day) Water/inhabitant/day (litres) Average hours of service

421,214

422,985

272,393

272,471

99,500

16,000

307

160

43

24

10

4

Source: EPAP (1991a).

the piped network make the existence of relative scarcity more acceptable to large sections of the population—both poor and rich—and lower the expecta- tions as to the quality and quantity of the services provided. As Vásconez (1988b: 14) puts it:

In the consolidated [improved] invasion settlements, the problem of potable water is not entirely resolved, but at least the majority of the dwellings are connected to the supply network. Although the levels of supply are considered insufficient, the situation really becomes unsustainable only during periods of drought or rationing. Here, a phenome- non occurs that is the opposite of how abundance of supply makes shortages infamous and unjust. In fact, the perception of absolute shortages renders relative shortages acceptable to a certain extent. The existence of extreme poverty, therefore, leads to a lowering of expectations of the less poor. (my translation)¹

In short, the ideology of production management, serving clear local inter- ests and propagated by international financiers and official development agen- cies, produced and perpetuates the existing mechanism of uneven access and outright exclusion and obfuscates both the issue of a just and empowering dis- tribution and the pressing problem of equitable water management. Ironically, this constructed scarcity lowers the expectations of many urban residents, and consequently helps to defuse the potential for social mobilization and grass- roots rebellion. Nevertheless, the average daily production of water per capita does indeed suggest that sufficient (although certainly below Western con- sumption standards) amounts of water are available to allow for the whole of the urban population in these cities to have sufficient water for a healthy and acceptable standard of living.

¹ En los barrios populares consolidados el problema del agua potable no està enteramente resuelto, pero, por los menos, la mayoria de las viviendas està connectada a las redes y, si bien, la cantidad de usar- ios vuelven insuficientes las dotaciones actuales, las situaciones sòlo se vuelven insostenibles en épocas secas o de ‘racionamiento’. Ocurre aqui un fenòmeno inverso al de las opulencias que habia notorias y injustas las carencias: al contrario, la percepciòn de las carencias absolutas, par contraste, vuelven en cierto modo y hasta cierto punto, soportables las situaciones de escasez relativa. La existencia de pro- brezas extremas puede, de hecho, empujar a la baja las aspiraciones de sectores menos pobres.

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Situating Guayaquil

3.2.2 Urban segregation, land rent, and the control over water

The expansion of the city due to the exodus of rural peasants and rapid inter- nal growth took place largely on marginal lands without infrastructure, with difficult topographies, and which yielded very little, if any, actual or prospec- tive land rent (Rojas and Villavicencio 1988; Brustein 1988c). Vásconez (1988b:

7) argues that the spatial structuring of water provision, i.e. the geographical distribution of urban areas with different levels of access to water, resulted in a differential valorization of the price of land and definition of urban land use. This condition accentuated the housing problem of the poor as their economic position and the high price of (serviced) urban land forced them to locate in areas deprived of infrastructure and collective equipment (with the exception of the ‘tugurized’central areas²) because the very absence of facilities kept land prices low (Brustein 1988c; Vásconez 1988b). Moreover, this process was often implicitly and explicitly encouraged by the local state as the occupation of mar- ginal low-value land preserved and, in the end, increased the potential rent of developable urban land in prime suburban areas. As such, marginal suburban- ization became an element in and an expression of wider urban land specula- tion on the one hand, while serving clientelist interests through first condoning and later actually organizing land invasions and the subsequent piecemeal pro- vision of some basic services (roads, electricity, and in some cases water) on the other (see Rojas and Villavicencio (1988) for a discussion of Guayaquil). The invaded lands consequently became pivotal areas for cultivating a clientelist political system of patronage, both through the organized provision of land and the personalized delivery of services. Ironically, the initial advantage of low urban rent values is quickly replaced by the extraction of extortionate geographic or location rent through the monopoly control of water vendors over the distribution of water. What was saved on land rent is spent many times over on the purchase of water (see Chapter 7). In this sense, the housing question is deeply related to the question of access to other key consumption commodities. While families could afford to move to under-serviced marginal lands exactly because the absence of ser- vices kept land prices down, other spatial rents resulting from inadequate or lacking public provision skyrocketed. The social production of nature and its recycling through monetary circulation expresses and creates political eco- nomic relations of power, domination, and exclusion. The urban expansion into the mangrove-covered areas south of city (which form Guasmo and Suburbio and now extend into Isla Trinitaria (see Plate 3.1) ) and the land inva- sions, which form Mapasingue and Bastion Popular (see Plate 3.2), exem- plify the above considerations for the case of Guayaquil (see Figure 3.2). Conversely, inhabitants of marginal urban settlements are often reluctant to

² ‘Tugurizaciòn’ refers to the process of central city densification through the internal division of houses into rented accommodation to house incoming rural families. Service provision is usually precar- ious and living conditions leave much to be desired (Cadme and Morocho 1980).

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Situating Guayaquil 71 Plate 3.1. Drowning in water and starving from thirst: Isla Trinitaria, Guayaquil. Plate

Plate 3.1. Drowning in water and starving from thirst: Isla Trinitaria, Guayaquil.

in water and starving from thirst: Isla Trinitaria, Guayaquil. Plate 3.2. High and dry: Bastion Popular,

Plate 3.2. High and dry: Bastion Popular, Guayaquil.

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Situating Guayaquil

struggle for domestic water supply connections not only because of their often precarious and uncertain legal and institutional positions, but also because ser- vice provisions are likely to cause an increase in land values. The latter might in the end even affect their positions within the area as higher-income groups, attracted by the improved servicing and increased value, might in fact force the original residents out. The poor are, consequently, caught between paying higher water rents or facing the consequences of increased land rents. A class gradient therefore emerges, in which consolidated and serviced formal invasion settlements are increasingly occupied by the middle classes, pushing poorer res- idents and new immigrants into the more peripheral and more recent invasion settlements. Moreover, the specific geographical characteristics of marginal settle- ments—poor location, difficult topography, and obsolete infrastructure (in the case of ‘Tugurized’ city centres)—facilitate the continuing exclusion of the urban poor by reinforcing technical arguments and blaming the lack of invest- ment funds as the main reasons for continuing water deprivation. The appar- ent technological managerial nature of the problem of urban service provision further feeds the productivist logic, which both friends and foes regard as the key issue. The operation of the political and socio-economic dynamics shaping peripheral urbanization and water distribution can be discarded or disguised in the ‘ideology of underdevelopment’, by blaming a lack of financing, expertise, and technology for the problems of difficult access and lack of supply. In ad- dition, the ‘bunching’ of services in the central city areas which more or less coincides with the spatial extent of the water network produces a bundle of mutually reinforcing positive externality effects for the industrial, commercial, and financial activities which concentrate there, and further accentuates segre- gation and exclusionary urban spatial and residential organization. Finally, in contrast with agricultural consumption, urban water use is char- acterized by the social and physical metabolism of water rather than its final consumptive use or its integration into new and transformed commodities. This means that used water remains in place as residential, commercial, or industrial waste water and poses a serious health threat if not efficiently removed. As the data in Tables 3.5 and 3.6 show, infrastructure for the second half of the circulation of water, the physical evacuation of sewage from the city, trails even further behind potable water supply systems in terms of area cov- ered. Evidently, the absence of adequate sewerage systems to deal with the mil- lions of cubic litres of more or less contaminated urban water is most acutely felt in the marginal suburban settlements and coincides with the absence of potable water supply networks. If we add inadequate garbage collection to that list (see, for example, Olaya 1991), the marginal settlement dwellers are literally trapped and drowning in their own excrements without access to water to clean it up or circulating conduits to flush the houses and streets. At the same time however, the sharpening of these segregation process and ensuing social con- flicts intensifies the urban crisis and contributes to the further deterioration of everyday urban life. Even the rich can only escape from this urban degeneration

Situating Guayaquil

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by exercising their superior command over space, and catching the next plane to Miami.

3.2.3 A matter of life and death: the geography of the hydraulic health problem

The social struggle for control over and use of available water is clearly not only unfolding within the urban arena with its characteristic mechanisms of access to and exclusion from water, but also takes a much wider form in the socio- geographical rivalry between alternative uses, i.e. agricultural, industrial/ commercial, and residential. Not only has groundwater and fluvial pollution increased over recent years as a result of seepage and disposal of heavy metals, synthetic and agricultural chemicals, and other hazardous wastes, but over- pumping has also caused salt water to infiltrate freshwater aquifers or to move further up river mouths. This, combined with malfunctioning or absent sewer- age systems, negatively affects water quality, poses serious health threats, and pushes water treatment costs spiralling upward (World Bank 1992: 47). For example, in Lima upstream pollution has increased treatment costs by about 30% (World Bank 1992: 101). In Guayaquil, upstream irrigation projects not only divert water from the River Daule (an estimated future use of 100 litres/second), but are also associated with more intensive agriculture and its associated fertilizer-rich run-off, leading to potential eutrophication problems in the river. This has already led to regular spectacular blooms of water lilies, which, in turn, clog the filters and diminish the pumping capacity of the water treatment station. Periods of fast growth invariably lead to water shortages in the city. This process is also likely to cause higher water production costs in the future. Within the urban sphere, the struggle to acquire water and remove sewage is quite literally a matter of life and death. There has been a resurgence of cholera epidemics in Latin America (particularly in the Andean countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador) since 1990, and the disease is now endemic in some regions. This is the most dramatic example of the deterioration of sanitary conditions in urban slums and is largely caused by ineffective sanitation, poor water supply, and insufficient or non-existent sewerage connections. For exam- ple, in the province of Guayas, there were 14,951 reported Cholera cases (5.1/1,000 inhabitants) in 1991 and a further 11,558 in the first ten months of 1992. In these two years, cholera was the third most frequently reported illness on a list of 40 diseases, after influenza and diarrhoea (itself related to water quality). Moreover, of the 50 main causes of mortality, gastrointestinal diseases (mostly related to unsatisfactory sanitary and hygienic conditions related to water quality and waste-water disposal) came eighth for the city of Guayaquil (14.3/100,000 inhabitants). In the marginal urban areas, drinking water was in 1991 the fourth most lethal activity (after heart diseases, pneumo- nia, and traffic accidents, but before homicides) (Dirección de Salud de Guyas 1992). Water-related diseases were directly responsible for 3.5% of all deaths

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Situating Guayaquil

Table 3.8. Bacteriological analysis of drinking water in selected parts of the city

Location

Total count/ml.

Coliforms/ml.

Av. Carlos Julio Arosemana Av. De las Americas Las Peñas Centro de Guayaquil Av. Domingo Comín (sample 1) Av. Domingo Comín (sample 2) Guasmo

5

0

0

0

3

0

13

0

Uncountable

10

30

0

Uncountable

0

Note: The bottom three are samples from water sold by ‘tanqueros’. Source: Fundación Natura (El Universo, 31 July 1992).

for the city as a whole and for 4.9% of deaths in the peripheral settlements (Suburbio, Guasmo, Isla Trinitaria, Mapasingue). Both the illegally tapped water as well as the water distributed by water vendors is often highly bacterio- logically contaminated, with serious negative health consequences. Table 3.8 shows the level of bacteriological contamination of drinking water in a num- ber of areas in Guayaquil. For children, the water-related health problems take dramatic proportions. Intestinal infections are the fourth most important cause of infant mortality (3.3 per 1,000 live births in 1992) and are by far the most important infant illness. In an average week in Guayaquil (data for 24–31 October 1992), diarrhoea was by far the most reported disease among children under 5 years old on a list of 22 controlled epidemiological illnesses. Of a total of 1,850 cases, 1,018 were diarrhoea-type diseases (55%), followed by 613 cases (33.1%) suffering from sub-optimal weight and malnutrition (Dirección de Salud de Guayas 1992). In addition to the evident health problems and the uneven geography of water-related deaths, the struggle over water is also related to forms of social domination and exclusion and to psychological stress. The uncertainty about daily water supply, the time invested (usually women’s time), and the energy spent on waiting, hauling, carrying, or working for water, waste productive time and energy. Above all, however, it restricts the time available for creative and emancipatory living as the exclusionary practices of the political economy of water control submerge other activities under the daily quest for urban survival. Moreover, while deeply implicated in the reproduction of labour and family relations, the struggle to get water simultaneously threatens this very process. In addition, the search for water is by no means gender-blind. On the contrary, the struggle for water reinforces gender divisions and gender domination. For example, private water vendors are, without exception, male, while the

Situating Guayaquil

75

overwhelming majority of buyers and main users are female. The uncertainty and irregularity of water supply and its often time-consuming character forces one family member, again usually the woman, to stay close to the house to attend to the daily routine of water buying and/or haulage. The high cost of water is compounded with the loss of time that could otherwise be spent more productively. In addition, the water is often of poor quality and unsuitable for drinking, thereby increasing expenditure on alternative, but equally commodi- fied, substitute liquids such as sodas (Coca-Cola is ubiquitous, but its price is equal to about two hours of labour for a minimum wage earner), mineral, or purified water. The latter is usually the cheapest alternative at approximately US$0.5 for 4 litres. All of this suggests how the circulation of water is caught into the contra- dictory development of the urbanization process and the political economy of power that shapes the socio-spatial structure of the city. Indeed, the serious shortcomings of water provision in Guayaquil bring water to centre stage in the relationships of political, economic, and cultural power through which the urbanization process takes place. The struggle for water and the contested nature of the uneven access to water turns the water issue into a highly con- tested terrain. Elements of class, gender, and ethnic relationships become embedded in the circulation of water. The water circulation process, therefore, can be used as a means to excavate the multiplicity of power relationships within the city. However, before we turn to the political ecological processes through which access to and exclusion from water is organized, it is imperative to reconstruct the historical geographical processes through which the urbanization of water in Guayaquil was organized. In the following two chapters, the history of Guayaquil’s urbanization process will be written from the perspective of the need to urbanize and domesticate nature’s water and the parallel necessity to push the ecological frontier outward as the city expanded.

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PART II

Social Power and the Urbanization of Water in Guayaquil, Ecuador

PART II Social Power and the Urbanization of Water in Guayaquil, Ecuador

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4

The Urban Conquest of Water in Guayaquil, 1880–1945: Cocoa and the Urban Water Dream

About 40 miles from Duran we passed the water purifying plant of the Guayaquil water system. The source of this supply is in the high mountains in the backcountry. Before I left home an old sea captain warned me not to

drink water in Guayaquil unless it had been boiled

the Captain sailed the seas before the Rockefeller Foundation made Guayaquil sanitary and in so doing wiped out yellow fever for which it was notorious, and before the city installed its present modern water system.

Desmarest 1937: 54

I am sure now that

Tratemos de imaginar, por un momento, las soleadas calles del centro del puerto recorridas—de tanto en tanto—por un parsimonioso tranvía eléc- trico o un lustroso Ford, o transitadas por unos cuantos peatones mostrando impecable levita y sombrero ‘tostada’, accompañado damas de botín, falda al pie y sombrero con encaje; al cine Edén iban por las tardes a espectas—antes que en Buenos Aires o Santiago—los films por rollos de los Barrymore, mientras el Teatro Olmedo vestía sus mejores galas noctur- nas recibiendo al conjunto lírico de Bracalle y a la prima donna Iris.

Martinez 1988: 11–12

The problems outlined in the previous chapter evolve from particular histori- cal political ecological processes. As the urbanization process is predicated upon the mastering and engineering of nature’s water, the ecological conquest of water is an integral part of the expansion and growth of the city. At the same time, the capital required to build and expand the urban landscape is itself, at least in the case of Guayaquil, generated through the political ecological trans- formation of the city’s hinterland. In this and the following chapters, we shall explore the historical dynamics of the urbanization process through the lens of this double ecological conquest. The city’s growth created the need for water systems, which stretched further and further from the city in order to tap addi- tional water resources. Foreign capital had to be generated to finance the imported technology of these projects. This necessitated a sound export-based economy, initially driven by cocoa (until the early twentieth century), bananas

80

Water in Guayaquil, 1880–1945

(from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s), and oil (from 1973 onwards). The urban process was consequently embedded in a double ecological conquest:

ever greater flows of water became urbanized, while the city’s hinterland was socially and ecologically transformed. The latter conquest, in turn, plugged the Ecuadorean economy into the international division of labour. Guayaquil was the arena and medium through which those circuits of transformed nature and money were organized. The contemporary social struggle around water is evidently the result of the deeply exclusive and marginalizing ways in which political, economic, and ecological power have been worked out. The current water system and water politics exemplify the wider socio-economic and political processes that char- acterized Guayaquil’s urbanization process.

4.1 The making of the Ecuadorean bourgeoisie and the first urbanization of water

4.1.1 The origins of the commodified watering of the city

Until the mid-nineteenth century, Guayaquil was just a large port village on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, surviving in the shadow of the political and former colonial centre of Quito and the economically dominant Sierra (Andean high- land) hacienderos. In 1780, Quito had a population of 28,500 compared to 6,600 in Guayaquil, and by the mid-nineteenth century these figures had risen to 36,000 and 25,000 respectively. Until 1700, the potable water supply for the approximately 5,000 residents of Guayaquil came from wells dug at the foot of the Cerro Santa Ana. Later, when water demand outstripped the supply of the wells, the ‘local’water had to be complemented by commercialized water trans- ported from the Daule River. The water was captured approximately 25 km upstream from the city, because of downstream saline waters (Estrada 1974), and is the current site of the main treatment station of ‘La Toma’ (see Fig. 3.4). Professional indigenous ‘aguateros’or water vendors¹ transported the water by rafts and mules carried the barrelled water around town (Estrada 1972: 50). Speculative water politics were quite common, ranging from the formation of cartels to increase the water price to the selling of (more saline) water captured downstream, thereby saving on time and transportation costs. From 1739 onwards, the local authorities organized regular raft journeys to haul water from the river, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century, water vending was a very lucrative business as water haulage and distribution fell increasingly under market rules. While other small Ecuadorean towns still had local wells or reasonably clean local river water, Guayaquil depended more and more on an

Water in Guayaquil, 1880–1945 81

already fairly sophisticated social and material water economy that combined private and public actors. Although several attempts were made to regulate the ‘aguateros’ or ‘aguadores’ by setting price levels, prices remained high. The considerable returns of water businesses attracted new and more powerful economic actors into the water economy. Even the ethnic composition of water vendors began

to change. Originally an activity organized by indigenous people, the circula-

tion of water became increasingly organized by and under the control of mes- tizos (people of mixed ethnic descent) or whites. Indeed, while water haulage and distribution originated as a fairly marginal activity whereby indigenous proto-entrepreneurs could find a business niche that permitted basic survival, these were driven out by mestizos and whites as the revenues, and hence the power of water, increased. By 1890, the monthly wage of a water carrier was about 24 sucres (Pineo 1996: 60) and comparable to that of a skilled worker. The changing ethnic composition of the division of labour in the organization of the production and delivery of urban water was paralleled by a deepening transformation of the divisions in terms of water consumption. The spreading commodification of water resulted in a social stratification of water consump- tion as this depended increasingly on people’s ability to pay. The poor were forced to use (dirty) well water or ‘hauled muddy drinking water out of the Guayas river from the very piers that also served as toilets’ (Pineo 1996: 102). More wealthy inhabitants could afford to pay for the river water or to use expensive porous stones to purify the water (Pérez Pimentel 1987). Estrada (1972), for example, notes how access to water became socially highly stratified:

To quench their thirst, the rich drank sangria; the middle class water from the Daule

River, and the poor or from the river

they drank badly tasting water from the pumps in the old city stored in a pot or filtered through large stones. (my translation)²

This basic and decentralized, but commodified, system of untreated crude

urban water supply remained in place until the end of the nineteenth century.

A first attempt at constructing a sewerage system was made in 1859 when city-

workers dug a 10-mile open channel to carry excrement into the laguna. How- ever, this proved to be totally inadequate and dung heaps in the city grew bigger and bigger (Pineo 1996: 101). A first sewer line was completed in 1892, but this had broken down completely by 1903. However, the variety of efforts to sani- tize the city that were emerging in Europe had captured the imagination of the enlightened Guayaquileño elites who ventured to modernize their own envi-

ronments on the basis of the European experience. Trade links, and the fre- quent travels of the nascent Ecuadorean bourgeoisie to Europe, fused the modernizing visions and engineering capabilities that had swept through the old continent with the aspirations of the local elite to mobilize this cultural

² Para calmar la sed de los ricos tomaban sangria; la clase media agua del Daule; y los

‘desabrida al gusto’, de los pozos de la ciudad vieja o del Rio de grandes piedras.

agua

decantada en una olla o filtrada a travès

82

Water in Guayaquil, 1880–1945

capital as emblematic manifestations of their own social and political eco-

nomic ascent. The first studies to equip the city with a circulating running water network were undertaken, and the contest for control over and domestication

of water began to intensify (Manrique 1940).

The first urban water engineering studies were initiated in the second half of the nineteenth century, but they did not attract sufficient interest (or funds). Between 1823 and 1885, for example, several attempts were made to start large water projects in Guayaquil, all of which failed because of a combination of

systematic rejection of national (state) support and the absence of local inter- est and financing. This reflects Guayaquil’s lack of financial economic power and political influence at the national level during the early years after inde- pendence (1830). In 1880 the local authorities contracted a team of engineers

to build the first waterworks, including the construction of reservoirs and a

pipe network. However, this attempt at constructing a public water supply failed, as local investors did not show any interest in participating in the planned ‘Empresa de Agua Potable’ (Potable Water Company). In 1884, at the height of the cocoa boom, a public tender was put out to initiate water and canalization works. The financing of the project (estimated at 716,000 pesos), which was started in 1887, was secured through a loan from the Banco de Crédito Hipotecario after the local authority agreed to buy a plot of presum- ably worthless inundated and marshy land owned by the bank. This land did not yield any rent at the time, but after 1945 became part of the invaded settle- ment of Suburbio (Pérez Pimentel 1987: 120–1; Rojas and Villavicencio 1988; Villavicencio 1992). The deal allowed the bank to cash in on the worthless land³ and to use the generated rent to finance the waterworks. This first water project was executed by a French company employing

a series of mostly foreign (German, Italian, British, French) engineers. The reservoir on the Cerro del Carmen was inaugurated on 6 July 1892, and was filled the following day with water piped from a point on the Agua Clara river 88 km east of the city (see inset A on Fig. 3.4). By New Year’s Day 1893, the first distribution network was in place and from 30 January of that year, the first 150 houses could enjoy the luxury of domesticated water. In the subsequent years, the network was gradually extended by the local authority under the management of the ‘Junta de Canalizaciòn y Proveedora del Agua Potable de Guayaquil’, created by President Eloy Alfaro in 1896 and partially financed through a tax on cocoa exports (Villavicencio, Rojas, and Olaya

1988).

Lavatory import businesses were set up very shortly afterwards, and flour- ished despite the fact that waste water still had to be collected in buckets or allowed to flow freely over the patio to be absorbed by the ground. Toilets and indoor plumbing became valued symbols of cultural capital and testified to the social status of the residents. The urban poor visited the ‘sanitized’ houses to

³ It is exactly on these marginal municipal lands that the post-1930 land invasions would begin.

Water in Guayaquil, 1880–1945 83

marvel at the imported and finely decorated porcelain or tiled artefacts for bodily hygiene and cleansing (Pérez-Pimentel 1987: 123; El Universo 1979). Both city and body joined the conquest for a sanitized, hygienic, and deodor- ized being. Status, gender and power became reflected by the odours of the body. As Pineo (1996: 74) put it:

The wealthy adorned their homes with telephones, indoor plumbing, refrigerators, typewriters, various Westinghouse kitchen appliances and even gas lights and stoves. Special imports included American whiskey such as Old Grand Dad, champagne (at four Sucre a bottle in 1925), fine soaps, or Ever-Sweet underarm deodorant, they could purchase at better stores.

The domestication and commodification of water and the associated strati- fied and exclusionary water practices placed urban water control and use squarely into the realm of social differentiation and status. This, in turn, brought water appropriation even more to the foreground in marking and con- solidating relations of power and class positions. While the white rich would

defecate in the sometimes silver bowl of the toilet, comforted by the privacy of their custom-made decorated lavatories, and perfumed men and women would promenade along the waterside boulevard and visit the theatre, the poor con- tinued to use the streets as a public toilet, and the river for essential bodily hygiene. Pineo (1996: 102) recalls the memoirs of a visitor in 1914 who wrote

that filth continued to ‘accumulate

especially those of the poorer classes and wastewater from taverns, factories, laundries, and homes slopped all over Guayaquil. People urinated and defe- cated wherever they found a place as the urge came.’

in the houses and patios, or courtyards,

4.1.2 Domesticating water: a double ecological conquest

The mobilization of the city and the state around a growing preoccupation with the water urbanization process paralleled a changing socio-spatial class situation and a reconfiguration of the state apparatus at the turn of the century. In fact, the successful watering of the city at the start of the twentieth century signalled and reflected rapid changes in the political economic position of the city and its ruling elites. Indeed, after independence, and particularly from 1850 onwards, the early post-colonial society underwent significant socio- spatial changes as Ecuador was gradually transformed into an agro-export economy. The agro-export-based Ecuadorean accumulation model originated with the expansion of world demand (particularly in Europe) for and trade in cocoa around 1860. The growth of cocoa production in the coastal region of the country and the concomitant rise of cocoa exports reshuffled the social composition of Ecuador. The country had hitherto been characterized by an economically and politically dominant class of Sierra hacienderos on the one hand and an impoverished, politically excluded, and unfree, sharecropping (huasipungo) indigenous peasantry on the other. The most widespread form of

84

Water in Guayaquil, 1880–1945

Table 4.1. Population change in Guayaquil,

1500–1990

Year

Total

Source

Year

Total

Source

1537

150

a

1880

36,000

a

1571

320

c

1890

44,792

b

1587

786

b

1895

55,000

b

1605

1,100

d

1896

58,000

a

1620

2,000

c

1905

81,650

b

1678

6,000

c

1910

82,000

h

1693

5,000

a

1919

91,842

b

1734

11,000

a

1920

100,000

a

1764

4,914

h

1930

116,047

f

1793

8,000

c

1935

135,190

f

1805

14,000

a

1944

200,000

f

1814

15,000

a

1950

258,966

e